Prime Minister Scott Morrison has shot down calls to reinstate the wage subsidy program JobKeeper, even as half the country has entered into lockdown in a bid to contain the latest Delta COVID-19 outbreaks.
In a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Morrison defended the $600 and $375 lockdown payments and indicated there would be no new financial or economic support from the Federal Government announced today.
“These payments are the same level of payment that was being provided in the December quarter in JobKeeper. Exactly the same,” he said.
“The only difference is they're being paid by the Government direct, not through your employer.
“And the design of these payments is designed to support the lockdowns in encouraging people to be able to stay at home … as a result of the lockdowns,” he said.
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The Prime Minister said today’s lockdown situation was “very different” to what Australia confronted in March and April last year when JobKeeper was introduced.
“That was a national scheme that went across all businesses in Australia and it was designed with the prospect of having Australia in that situation for at least six months, which indeed, it was in. It needed the scale of that type of initiative to deliver that,” Morrison said.
“We need to be able to turn this on and turn it off quite quickly and with the method we've chosen, we are able to do just that.”
COVID-19 support that’s been announced so far:
When asked whether he would absolutely rule out the return of JobKeeper, Morrison said: “I'm not trying to solve last year's problem. That's what JobKeeper solved.”
When the JobKeeper program was introduced, it took 4-6 weeks for the money to hit the workers’ wallets, he said.
“I don't have six weeks. I need to make sure that we've got $200 million out the door now – which is exactly what we've done,” Morrison said.
“We will continue to tailor our responses of economic supports to meet the challenges that we have now.”
States and territories have also stepped up and introduced their own economic support schemes to stem the economic damage induced by the latest Delta variant-induced lockdowns, “unlike this time last year”, Morrison said.
“It's basically JobKeeper by another distribution method and what matters is that people are getting economic support. Its timely and proportionate and targeted and there when it's needed and that's what is coming there.”
The Government is seeing around 70,000 claims per day, and has paid out $32 million in financial support in the last 24 hours.
In some instances, payments were being made just 40 minutes after the claims were put through, Morrison said.