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Warning over JobSeeker, JobKeeper cuts coming in days

·3-min read
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 12:  Shadow Minister For Government Services Bill Shorten during a press conference in the Mural Hall at Parliament House on June 12, 2020 in Canberra, Australia. The government last month promised to repay $720m to 373,000 past and present welfare recipients over 470,000 unlawful demands for money calculated using faulty “income averaged” annual pay data as part of Centrelink’s income compliance program. New polling has showed significant support for a royal commission into the debacle, and revelations that internal estimates have shown the total value of those 470,000 unlawful debts will be close to $1.5bn AUD.  (Photo by Sam Mooy/Getty Images)
Shadow Minister For Government Services Bill Shorten. (Photo by Sam Mooy/Getty Images)

Federal Labor has warned the government not to go ahead with cuts to welfare benefits in January, saying it's too soon and the jobs market is still weak in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Morrison government plans to lower the JobSeeker unemployment supplement by $100 a fortnight on January 1 and the JobKeeper payment by $200 on January 4.

The new rates will be $150 a fortnight for Jobseeker and $1000 for JobKeeper and are effective until end-March.

"The government should reconsider it," Labor Melbourne MP Bill Shorten told Nine's Today Show on Tuesday.

"We are not out of the woods yet with this pandemic and the economic effects, they reverberating around the economy, especially in regional towns and suburbs where there is a lot of casual workers who have born the biggest brunt.

"For the less well off, we shouldn't be cutting their circumstances at this point in time."

Mr Shorten noted there are more than one million people on the unemployment queue and that number is likely to increase.

Meanwhile, the federal government has raised hopes two coronavirus vaccines will be rolled out sooner than expected after the national death toll rose by one on Monday.

A NSW man in his 70s who was infected with COVID-19 in March recently died of respiratory complications.

The death raised the NSW COVID-19 toll to 56 and the national toll to 909.

Health Minister Greg Hunt on Monday hinted the current plan to roll out at least two coronavirus vaccines in Australia by the end of March could happen sooner.

"Our goal is to under-promise, over-deliver, and we expect that Australians will be fully vaccinated by the end of October," he said.

"We would like to see as many Australians as possible be vaccinated but, in order to do that, they have to have the confidence that our regulators are making sure that every safety step is ticked.

"And we're ticking all of those boxes just a little bit earlier than expected."

One vaccine has been developed by AstraZeneca and the UK's Oxford University and the other by Pfizer and BioNTech.

Australia has ordered more than 50 million doses of the former and 10 million of the latter. Most of the AstraZeneca purchase will be produced in Australia by CSL.

AstraZeneca global chief Pascal Soriot on the weekend said he believed his company's vaccine had the "winning formula" in terms of storage and efficacy.

The AstraZeneca serums can be stored in a fridge while the Pfizer formulations have to be stored at -70C in specialised equipment.

Meanwhile, NSW is still trying to suppress a COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney's northern breaches, which has now grown to a cluster of 126 cases.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced the area will remain in lockdown into the new year after four new local virus cases were confirmed on Monday. A fifth is still under investigation.

A plan to give frontline coronavirus workers from around NSW prime seats to the famous New Year's Eve fireworks on Sydney Harbour has also been cancelled.

"It's too much of a health risk having people from the regions and from Sydney and from broader regional areas congregate all in the CBD," Ms Berejiklian said.

Victoria on Monday recorded its 59th consecutive day without a locally-acquired COVID-19 case but uncovered two new cases in hotel quarantine.

Queensland, which has gone 104 days without any community transmission, recorded five new cases in hotel quarantine on Monday. There are currently 13 active cases in the state.

South Australia on Monday recorded one COVID-19 case in hotel quarantine, while Western Australia recorded three COVID-19 cases in hotel quarantine.

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