Federal Government ignores universal calls for JobKeeper to return

Adam Crouch

Calls for the Federal Government to reintroduce JobKeeper have received bipartisan support on the Coast as many small business owners and workers struggle to make ends meet during the COVID lockdown.

The Federal Government did up its COVID-19 Disaster Payment on Wednesday, July 28, following the NSW lockdown extension announcement.

It is available for workers unable to earn income due to a lockdown, hotspot or period of restricted movement.

The scheme now provides those eligible with $750 per week if they lose 20 hours or more of work, whilst those that lose between eight and less than 20 hours, or a full day of work, will receive a payment of $450 per week.

The new national payment rate will commence for payments processed week commencing August 2 and will be automatically updated for those already in the Services Australia system.

There will be no liquid assets test applied to eligibility for these payments and an individual does not need to run down personal annual leave.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison also announced the government will be offering an additional $200 payment to people who have lost more than eight hours of work a week whilst on a welfare payment, such as the pension, youth allowance or JobSeeker.

This payment will be paid from week one of the lockdown and will act as a ‘top up’ to the existing JobSeeker, youth allowance or pension rate.

This sounds a lot like the reintroduction of JobKeeper but it does not secure an ongoing relationship between employer and employee.

The JobKeeper payment scheme supported businesses significantly affected by COVID-19 last year, helping protect people’s jobs and livelihood.

No promise has been made by the Federal Government to reintroduce JobKeeper despite its payment adjustments and the NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet’s reported ‘demanding’ of its return as Greater Sydney, which includes the Central Coast, enters its sixth week in lockdown.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Central Coast, Adam Crouch, said he was backing Perrottet’s calls for JobKeeper to be brought back.

“During Victoria’s lockdown last year, workers benefited from the $750 weekly payments and all I’m asking is for the same to be provided for NSW workers whose hours of work have been cut,” Crouch said.

“I want to make sure no worker or business owner slips through the cracks over these next few difficult days and weeks.”

Local shop employee, Charmaine Simonet, who is also a store delegate for Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) Members said JobKeeper should be in place.

“I am a part-time worker and have been stood down as a result of the restrictions which means I am unpaid, as are many of my colleagues,” Simonet said.

“My work has offered for us to take annual leave or long-service leave but for some of us that is not an option – and even if it was it should not be.

“While I have lodged a claim to retrieve my pay through Centrelink waiting to see whether the application is successful is agonising.

“This whole process has been so much more stressful than it had to be and with lockdown already causing enough, that is the last thing we need.”

She said current payments do not guarantee any income.

“With JobKeeper we were guaranteed an income, we did not have to worry but now we do have to worry,” she said.

“While I am one of the lucky ones, there are some who are dependent on their own, struggling to pay their rent and feed their kids.

“So many people I know are clutching at straws right now and our government is just watching.

“A modified JobKeeper payment to NSW is necessary to ensure we can work our way through this lockdown and out of it.

“Our members were walking in to work not knowing what was going to happen and now unfortunately our worst fears have come true.

“The Government has had time to put in these measures, we have been through lockdowns before, and a scheme should already be in place.”

Member for Gosford, Liesl Tesch, said it was ‘too little, too late’ and that more needed to be done by the Federal Government to help businesses and workers survive the extended lockdown.

“Thousands of people in my community are unable to work as a result of the restrictions and feel like they have no one to turn to,” Tesch said.

“These businesses have already gone … some of them haven’t recovered from the first lockdown.

“Last year JobKeeper was introduced to ensure our livelihoods were not compromised and to keep the economy rolling forward.”

Tesch acknowledged the tough restrictions enforced across Greater Sydney meant that JobKeeper was now needed more so than ever before.

“JobKeeper should have been in the background already and the first lockdown should have been a learning curve,” she said.

“What is the Government’s excuse now?

“The rising cost of living is already a problem, add loss of jobs, for who knows how many weeks, and the constant fear and anxiety of getting COVID-19, plus the stress of having no money in the bank is a recipe for disaster.

“We need JobKeeper – not tomorrow, not in a week – we need it now.”

However, Morrison said at a press conference on Wednesday that he would not reintroduce the JobKeeper scheme as it was ‘not the right solution for the problems we have now, what we are doing is faster, it is more effective’.

He also said this model will now be applied to all potential future lockdowns.

Applications for the current COVID-19 Disaster Payment can be found on the Services Australia website.

Maisy Rae