An MP has enraged viewers and the Opposition after suggesting Victorians struggling financially do one thing. But there’s a big catch.
Australia’s federal trade Minister has been blasted after a “confusing” appearance on television surrounding Victoria’s latest devastating lockdown.
It comes on the same day Victoria recorded a positive Covid case in an aged care facility, with officials launching a full scale health response to avoid the virus spreading.
Victoria recorded five new cases on Sunday with a total of 49 active cases in the state. Exposure sites have reached more than 170, sparking fears the lockdown could be extended beyond its Friday deadline.
A push to bring back JobKeeper for struggling residents is also gaining steam, with the ACTU saying “more than a million casual workers in Victoria will be facing increased uncertainty this week”.
Appearing on ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday, Victorian Liberal MP Dan Tehan was asked whether the federal government would provide support to those casual Victorian workers who were financially affected by the lockdown, the state’s fourth.
Mr Tehan suggested those who are affected “go to Centrelink”, but couldn’t confirm whether they would receive any additional funding.
Mr Tehan mentioned a number of “existing support” packages — namely the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment and Emergency Health Payment — but the problem, as host David Speers pointed out, is that the payments are not available to every one, mainly if you contract Covid-19 or are a close contact.
When asked what a waitress or bartender can do, Mr Tehan replied:
“Well, you can go to Centrelink and if you’re eligible, if you’ve lost a complete week’s work or if you will lose two weeks’ work, then you might be eligible for one of these emergency health payments,” Mr Tehan said.
“So for those people who find themselves in circumstances where they’ve completely lost their income, then they should go to Centrelink and see whether they are eligible.”
According to the Services Australia website, which lists the Crisis Payments, it specifically states: “You can’t get this crisis payment for lockdown”.
When quizzed if the federal government was announcing a new policy position, Mr Tehan’s fumbled response is below.
“If you’ve lost your income, obviously it depends on eligibility, and you’re going to lose your income for the week, then you should go to Centrelink and see whether you might be eligible for an emergency payment.
“This is not a new government policy. What I’m saying is if you’ve lost all your income, then you should go to Centrelink and see whether you’re eligible for payment.
“It will depend on your circumstances and on your loss of income. They will assess the situation and see whether you’re eligible for payment.
“In terms of federal government support for Victoria during this pandemic, we have paid more federal government support for Victoria per capita than any state or territory.”
Mr Tehan said that figure was $46 billion.
Dan Tehan’s interview ‘confusing’
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese ripped into Mr Tehan, calling his interview “confusing” and demanded he apologise.
Mr Albanese said of Mr Tehan’s latest appearance: “I’m not sure what he was saying, I know that he wasn’t clear at all but he implied that there was already significant economic support available.
“The federal government needs to clarify exactly what it means. This is a government where the messages, whether it’s about income support, whether it’s about whether people should be vaccinated, or whether it be about national quarantine, needs to get its message straight.”
Push to kickstart JobKeeper
More than one million Aussie workers receiving JobKeeper had the support “ripped” away from them at the end of March, according to Labor.
On Sunday, Victoria’s Acting Premier James Merlino announced a $250 million support package for businesses struggling during the seven-day lockdown.
Speaking at a press conference, he said the package will be available for small and medium sized businesses, including sole traders, to help them get through this “very difficult time”.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has backed the announcement but said some workers in Victoria will be “trying to stretch last week’s pay this week”.
President Michele O’Neil responded to the Insiders program, posting: “We need JobKeeper 2 and we need it now for situations exactly like we are facing in Victoria today”.
In a statement, Ms O’Neil blamed the government for Victoria’s situation, citing hotel quarantine failures and the slow vaccine rollout.
“They have made a bad situation worse by withdrawing JobKeeper too soon, and refusing to now put in place JobKeeper 2 targeted at the workers and businesses who desperately need it,” she said.
“We know that huge numbers of the more than half a million casuals in Victoria will lose hours and pay this week due to the lockdown and lack of support from the federal Government.
Josh Frydenberg responds
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg posted a statement on Sunday afternoon saying the “Morrison Government will continue to work with the Victorian Government and closely monitor the situation.
“In both the Queensland and Western Australian lockdowns further federal support was not required,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“In the case of Victoria, the Morrison Government has provided and continues to provide an unprecedented level of direct economic support.
“Over $45 billion has already flowed to Victorian families and businesses during COVID, with more direct federal economic support per capita going to Victoria than to any other state. “The amount of federal government direct economic support delivered to Victoria is around three times what has been delivered by the state government.
“The federal government continues to provide support to Victorian families and businesses through this pandemic.
“The pandemic leave disaster payment of $1500 is available as is the National Health Emergency crisis payment.
“For businesses that experience losses, the loss carry-back measure is available to boost cash-flow at the end of the financial year.
“The economic impact of the Victorian outbreak is not insignificant but the budget just over two weeks ago did anticipate further outbreaks would occur.
“Our budget measures were calibrated accordingly, with the budget providing an additional $41 billion of COVID-related economic support.
“Should extended lockdowns be avoided and outbreaks contained the national economy can continue its strong recovery.”