More than a million Victorians will have their JobKeeper payments slashed by the Morrison Government by $300 a fortnight this month while they remain in lockdown and banned from attending the workplace.
The extended coronavirus lockdown has sparked havoc with plans to reduce the payments from $1500 to $1200 a fortnight from September 27, a move the Morrison Government has argued is an extension of the original deadline to end the payments.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has repeatedly defended the plan on the grounds that Victoria would be out of lockdown by the date that JobKeeper will be reduced, but the extended restrictions mean that’s no longer the case.
There are currently more than one million workers on JobKeeper in Victoria – an army of workers that is expected to rise to 1.36 million people next year.
The roadmap outlined by the Victorian Premier Dan Andrews on Sunday involves millions of workers still being subject to tough restrictions where they are effectively banned from attending work just as the JobKeeper payments are reduced.
Restaurants and cafes remain banned from trading as normal with only takeaway and delivery allowed and retail outlets will remain restricted to essential or click and collect.
Thousands of Victorians are also expected to lose their jobs and be forced onto JobSeeker, which is also being cut by the Morrison Government this month.
Labor’s treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers told news.com.au that cutting JobKeeper for millions of workers makes no sense when the jobs crisis is getting worse, not better.
“It beggars belief that the Treasurer, as a Victorian, won’t reconsider his JobKeeper cuts even as the jobs crisis intensifies,’’ he said.
“Josh Frydenberg is leaving millions of Victorians behind in the worst recession in almost a century.”
The Treasury has predicted that around 400,000 Victorians will lose their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Sunday, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison described Victoria’s decision to extend the lockdown arrangements as “hard and crushing news for the people of Victoria”.
In a clear criticism of the Victorian Government’s handling of the pandemic, Mr Morrison said the extended lockdown was a reminder of the impact and costs that result from not being able to contain outbreaks of COVID-19, resulting in high rates of community transmission.
“It is vital to the national interest to restore Victoria to a COVIDSafe environment, where we can reopen our economy and reasonably restore the liberties of all Australians, whether in Victoria or anywhere else,’’ he said.
“The proposed roadmap will come at a further economic cost. While this needs to be weighed up against mitigating the risk of further community outbreak, it is also true that the continued restrictions will have further impact on the Victorian and national economy, in further job losses and loss of livelihoods, as well as impacting on mental health.”
Victorian Chamber Chief Executive Paul Guerra has expressed his shock that the road map being outlined was much longer than expected.
“The business community had high hopes that today’s announcement would signal the end of Stage 4 restrictions on 13 September and instead businesses are left frustrated and facing more weeks of lost revenue and mounting costs they can’t afford,’’ he said.
“Victoria’s economy is experiencing its biggest crisis in modern times with thousands of businesses unable to operate for most of this year, and the government needs to allow Victorians to get back to work while managing the health crisis.
“We will continue to do whatever we can and work with both the Federal and State Government to not only deliver hope, but to deliver jobs, by keeping your business alive.”
Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton defended the toad map this morning arguing the alternative would involve a third wave and a third lockdown.
“The risk that’s been mapped out by the modelling suggests that if we open too early, and if we don’t follow these kind of thresholds for the next stage and the following steps, then we’ll be back in a situation that we’ve already been through in Victoria and we don’t
want to be there again,’’ he told ABC TV.
“We don’t want to be at a point where there is an epidemic curve where restrictions need to be put back in place. I understand how difficult it must be for businesses to see that it is not opening as early as they would have liked. But the risk, and it’s apparent in the modelling, is that going too early with too many cases on a daily basis, just puts it at serious risk of shutting down again in coming months.”