It has been four months since Australia went into lockdown to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. Surely that's enough time to iron out the wrinkles in the Federal Government's JobKeeper program?
From the beginning, before the government had a plan, Labor called for a national wage subsidy. It's what we needed to ensure people could stay in their jobs and businesses could survive.
It was only when we started seeing the long queues outside Centrelink - after unions, businesses and the community pushed for action - that the government came up with JobKeeper.
We knew it wasn't perfect but we supported the government to ensure Australians got the money they needed quickly. Along the way, we've made helpful suggestions on how to improve JobKeeper and pointed out when some workers were being unfairly left out.
That included the treatment of casuals. It doesn't make sense that some casuals are now receiving $750 a week for a few hours of work in a café. It also doesn't make sense that some casuals don't receive any wage subsidy at all because they have worked with their employer for less than 12 months.
They aren't the only ones missing out - child care workers had JobKeeper taken away from them this week. Meanwhile new businesses that opened just before COVID aren't eligible.
JobKeeper needs to be better targeted so it goes to the people who need it. It also can't end too early.
Until a vaccine is available, which is likely still at least 18 months away, many businesses will not be able to survive without assistance. In Kurri Kurri alone, there are 137 businesses, sole traders, organisations and charities relying on JobKeeper. They are worried about their futures and so are their workers. They need to know that JobKeeper isn't going to be pulled out from under them in September.
Cancelling JobKeeper too early would have a devastating impact on local businesses and households. If JobKeeper ends too early many workers will find themselves waiting in a queue at Centrelink applying for JobSeeker. We can't allow that to happen. There are already 13 job seekers for every one job vacancy in Australia.
If you or someone you know needs help with JobKeeper or JobSeeker please don't hesitate to contact my office on (02) 4983 2401 or via merylswanson.com.au.
- Meryl Swanson is the Federal Member for Paterson.