JobKeeper scheme sails through Parliament

The Morrison Government’s $130 billion JobKeeper payment scheme has passed through both Houses of Parliament with Labor’s backing. 

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg thanked the Opposition after the Senate passed the legislation yesterday, calling the support a Team Australia moment”.  

“The JobKeeper package is unprecedented in scale and scope and is like nothing this country has seen before,” the Treasurer said. 

The payments mean businesses affected by COVID-19 can receive $1,500 per employee, per fortnight, which they must use to pay their staff. 

The payment is targeted at businesses with less than a $1 billion annual turnover that can show they’ve had a 30 per cent reduction in their turnover, or more than $1 billion turnover who have suffered a 50 per cent reduction in their turnover.  

Businesses can claim JobKeeper payments for staff who are currently working for them, or were working for them at 1 March 2020, including those who have been stood down and rehired since then.

The employee must be a full-time or part-time employee, or a casual who has been employed regularly for more than a year. 

To support the scheme, amendments have also been made to the Fair Work Act which will allow employees who are eligible for JobKeeper payments to make temporary changes to how work is performed in order to help keep staff actively employed.   

This includes options to reduce an employeeworking hours, change their work location, or the duties that they perform. 

As of Wednesday morning, 750,000 businesses had signed up for JobKeeper. The payments are expected to reach six million Australian workers.  

It’s currently budgeted to run for six months. 

Hibernation strategy 

The JobKeeper scheme is part of the Federal Government’s hibernation strategy’. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the approach aims to preservthe foundations of the economy, to better enable recovery and revival after the COVID-19 downturn. 

That means keeping the jobs, it means keeping the businesses, keeping the tenancies in place, keeping the loans in place, keeping the credit lines open,” he said.

CCIWA Chief Economist Aaron Morey says the United Kingdom and New Zealand are taking a similar approach, trying to keep business-worker relationships intact. 

“We fully support the Australian Government’s approach in making it cheaper and easier for businesses and workers to stay together through this difficult period.” 

“The United States has taken a slightly different approach, it’s focussing mainly on bolstering unemployment benefits. We’re seeing that having some unintended consequences,” he said. 

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