Two days after assailing the Morrison government for inaction on a jobs plan amid ushering in the cuts to the JobSeeker and JobKeeper subsidies, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has called for a reversal and expansion of JobKeeper.
Citing the 3.5 million workers receiving JobKeeper, Michele O’Neil, president of the ACTU, views the subsidy as an essential form of support for more than one-third of the pre-COVID workforce, as their pre-tax payments were cut from $1500 for all recipients to $1200 for full-time workers and $750 for part-time workers, over the course of each fortnight.
“JobKeeper is an essential support during this crisis for millions of workers and their families. Any cut will mean more hardship for working people during the ongoing health and economic crisis,” O’Neil said on Sunday, further citing the ongoing duality of a once-in-a-generation economic domestic recession occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These cuts will hit the most vulnerable workers the hardest,” added O’Neil.
While Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the legislative changes to cut JobKeeper as his government’s own “extending and transitioning” on the subsidy’s scheme, the ACTU has also pointed out that the JobKeeper subsidy exists as a vital element for the Australian economy.
And the subsidy further serves as an even more essential economic player without a jobs plan that the unions’ national governing body keeps offering to the Morrison government, and that small business relies on the subsidy in the same spirit as workers do.
“We also know that these cuts will hurt small business and the economy because it is critical to the recovery from this recession that money is put in the hands of working people to spend,” said O’Neil.
Moreover, Brendan O’Connor, Labor’s shadow minister for employment and industry, concurs with the ACTU that the Morrison government could be doing more to prop up the economy and helping small business.
In addition to going ahead with Friday’s JobKeeper and JobSeeker cuts, the government’s plans to bring in changes to bankruptcy processes with the initial six-month interval of temporary debt protection ending occurred on Friday as well.
“Changes to bankruptcy processes are complex and require extensive consultation, so it is concerning that industry leaders have already declared the Morrison government’s consultation inadequate,” O’Connor said on Friday.
“Scott Morrison has still not done enough to support small businesses which are struggling in the worst recession in a generation, risking more jobs losses and business closures,” O’Connor added.
While still awaiting confirmation from the Morrison government on any adoption of its NERP jobs-based economic recovery blueprint that may not come until federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg reads out the budget on Tuesday week, O’Neil emphasises that reversing the cuts will help to support vulnerable workers.
“The Government needs to maintain and extend JobKeeper and JobSeeker to make sure that working people and those who have lost jobs are supported through this crisis,” she said.
And in addition to the ACTU’s pleas on JobKeeper and JobSeeker, O’Connor also points out that the government has shown overwhelming shortcomings in its promised achievements for the Coronavirus Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Guarantee Scheme which was created in late March when the pandemic broke with the intent to assist smaller- and medium-sized businesses with lines of credit to get through the pandemic.
“The Liberals have a poor record of delivering small business support, with only $1.8 billion of its $40 billion SME loan guarantee out the door, and repeated failures to fix payment times for SME’s,” O’Connor stated.
“Labor will wait to see the details of this proposal and consult with industry and other stakeholders,” O’Connor added.
O’Neil – in recognising the three-month prelude to the Christmas holidays that would justifiably provide a considerable year-end morale boost to those that have endured all of 2020’s slings and arrows – has also renewed the call for the Morrison government to commit to a comprehensive expansion of the JobKeeper program, in addition to advocating for a reversal of its cuts.
“These cuts come in the lead-up to Christmas at the end of an incredibly hard year and will be a huge blow to millions of families – they should be reversed and the program should be expanded to cover casuals, visa workers and industries like arts and higher education which the Government arbitrarily excluded,” said O’Neil.
Meanwhile, O’Connor insists that while being in opposition, a spirit of bipartisanship of working with the Morrison government on all economic matters is what Labor would prefer to do, but it has its limits on the JobKeeper and JobSeeker subsidies and beyond.
“We will continue to be constructive, supportive and responsible but that does not mean remaining silent when there are clear gaps that need to be filled,” said O’Connor.
“Australians deserve a plan from the Morrison Government to promote growth, protect and create jobs, support small businesses and set us all up for the recovery,” he added.
Also by William Olson:
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