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The government will soon announce a wage subsidy in an attempt to slow coronavirus job losses, Scott Morrison has confirmed

James Hennessy
·3-min read
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed the government is putting together plans for a wage subsidy, to stem the flow of job losses amid the coronavirus shutdown.

  • No specific details of the plan have been outlined, but Morrison said it would not be based on similar efforts from other nations such as Canada and the UK.

  • It followed a report in the Australian Financial Review on Saturday night that the government was planning a wage subsidy.

  • Visit Business Insider Australia's homepage for more stories.

Australia is set to follow the UK and Canada in announcing a wage subsidy in an attempt to slow the massive job losses caused by the coronavirus shutdowns, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed, as he urged employers to hold off on standing down staff until the package can be finalised.

Speaking at a press conference on Sunday morning, Morrison said the wage subsidy – in which the government will agree to fund the wage bills for employers up to a certain level – was still being hashed out, and would not be necessarily be based on any other country's plans.

"You cannot just cut and paste somebody else's system, because we have seen in many other jurisdictions, putting these in place, they having to rapidly redesign and change them," he said.

"So I would say to employers, who I know are going through very difficult times, these changes will be announced soon and I would ask that before you make any further decisions that you take the opportunity to see the further measures that the government will be announcing, and we will be seeking to enlist you in that process."

Morrison suggested any subsidy would be delivered through existing government payment mechanisms.

The announcements followed a report in the Australian Financial Review late on Saturday night, which confirmed the government was planning to "pay a generous share of wages for closed and hobbled businesses that retain their employees during the coronavirus recession".

According to the AFR's report, the subsidy will be in the 75 to 80 percent range – similar to the schemes announced in the UK and Canada – and will be capped at middle income earnings.

Much of the discourse around any potential wage subsidy effort concerns the hundreds of thousands of workers who have already been laid off across multiple sectors including hospitality and retail. Morrison said those already affected would be included in any package.

"We will be ensuring also that those who have already gone into this very devastating situation, where they have had to stand down workers, that any measures we are announcing will be taking them on as well and we will be working with them to that end," he said.

Speaking to the ABC's "Insiders" ahead of the prime minister's comments, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann suggested the measures would put the economy in "hibernation" while the country rides out the severe impact of the coronavirus.

"We are going to provide the best possible support that we sensibly can to support business to support Australians who are deeply impacted by this crisis," Cormann said.

So we are working very hard on further expanding the level of income support through businesses to enable more businesses either to stay in hibernation or to survive through this difficult period ahead for a strong bounce back on the other side."