‘Abandoned’: Anger as business lifeline ends

A key lifeline during the coronavirus pandemic has ended as thousands of businesses in Greater Brisbane prepare to enter a three-day lockdown.

Federal Labor has lashed the Morrison government for ending the JobKeeper wage subsidy as greater Brisbane enters a snap lockdown.

Thousands of Queensland businesses have been sent into limbo with a three-day lockdown coming into effect from 5pm on Monday.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Monday announced that people in Brisbane, Logan, Moreton Bay, Ipswich and Redlands areas would only be allowed to leave home for essential purposes after the state recorded 10 new cases of COVID-19.

Opposition Treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers has repeatedly called for the wage subsidy program, which ended on Sunday, to be extended.

“Under Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg, the pandemic support ends before the pandemic does,” Dr Chalmers said.

“Thousands of workers and their employers in local communities who’ve done their best to cling on during this pandemic have been abandoned.

“Through no fault of their own there are good businesses here who are doing it incredibly tough because of international border closures, vaccine delays and other necessary restrictions.”

The federal government has repeatedly rejected Labor’s calls to extend the wage subsidy, with Mr Morrison saying you “cannot run the Australian economy on taxpayers’ money forever”.

At least 1.1 million workers nationwide were supported by the payments in March.

However, economists have previously estimated that up to 150,000 Australians currently on JobKeeper could lose their jobs as a result of ending the lifeline.

Mr Frydenberg said the end of JobKeeper would be challenging but the job market was strong.

“The advice from Treasury was very clear, the program has to come to an end,” Mr Frydenberg told Sunrise.

“It was initially for six months and we extended to 12 months.

“If we left it in place as the economy strengthened, it would have actually been counter-productive because it would have prevented workers moving more freely across the economy into more productive roles.”

Additional support has already been announced for the arts and entertainment industry as well as the aviation and tourism sector.

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston said everybody knew that JobKeeper and the Jobseeker supplement were temporary.

But Senator Ruston said the government was not “walking away” from Australians, with the Jobseeker base rate increasing by $3.57 a day from Thursday.

“But what we need to recognise (is) that on top of base rates of payment, there are a lot of other things that people are able to get access to, which is targeted to their particular requirements in their particular circumstances,” she told ABC RN.

Senator Ruston also refused to demand that businesses that had made a profit during the pandemic return JobKeper money, reasoning they were “eligible to get it”.

“It’s a matter for them to decide as to whether they should want to return the money for the taxpayers,” she said.

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