30 March 2020

Second ACT stimulus in the works as Feds announce $1,500 'job keeper' payment

| Dominic Giannini
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Scott Morrison

The Prime Minister announced total support from the Federal Government will be worth $320 billion or 16.4 per cent of GDP. Photo: Screenshot.

The Prime Minister has announced a fortnightly ‘job keeper’ payment of $1500 for each worker whose employer has been affected by coronavirus.

The new economic support measure, which is set to cost the Federal Government $130 billion over the next six months, also increases the income test for job seeker payments, upping the partner threshold from $48,000 to almost $80,000.

The Commonwealth anticipates six million Australians will need an economic lifeline in the next six months.

Mr Morrison called the new economic support package well-tempered and targeted, saying it goes beyond similar initiatives in New Zealand and Britain, whose measures only go for three months.

“We are working now to a whole new set of rules,” he said. “Our goal is to protect the lives and livelihoods of Australians.

“Now is the time to dig deep. We are living in unprecedented times. We want to keep the engine of our economy running during this crisis. It might run on idle for a time but it must continue to run.”

The flat payment makes up 70 per cent of the median wage, and around 100 per cent of the median wage of sectors most impacted by the coronavirus-related shutdown such as tourism, retail and hospitality, Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said.

The new payment will be available for all full-time and part-time employees who were employed on 1 March and will include casual employees who have been with their current company for over a year.

It will also apply to not-for-profit companies and New Zealanders on 444 visas.

To be eligible, businesses must have suffered a decrease in revenue of over 30 per cent or 50 per cent for a business with more than a $1 billion turnover.

The announcement is on top of two prior stimulus packages from the Commonwealth to the tune of almost $70 billion and an extra $15 billion in measures announced by the states and territories.

The ACT Government is also set to unveil its second economic stimulus package at the end of the week, with a smaller announcement expected tomorrow after the National Cabinet meets again tonight (30 March).

The ACT Government was recently criticised by opposition leader Alistair Coe for not including more rebates or subsidies for commercial lease arrangement in its first $137 million stimulus package.

“There simply should not be commercial rates being charged, at least for affected businesses, if not right across the board,” Mr Coe said.

“It does not stack up that the ACT Government should be charging employers at a time when they cannot trade.”

John and Lyn Anderson

John Anderson (left) and his wife Lyn (right) have pleaded with the ACT Government to do more when it comes to commercial lease subsidies. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

The package included a $2,622 credit or refund to a business’s 2019-20 general rates in the fourth quarter of this financial year – which is equivalent to the annual fixed charged – at a cost of over $16 million to the budget.

However, owners of Federation Square in Gold Creek, John and Lyn Anderson, said this was not going to be enough to help them survive after waiving April’s rent for all of their tenants.

“There are tenants here we treat like family, they have been here from day one,” John said.

“We have a motel over there, last week I received a rate notice of $9,000 for sewerage charge. All school bookings have totally ceased, all housemaids have been put off, there is no accommodation happening whatsoever yet we are being charged this toilet tax for flushing toilets that are not being flushed. We are doing our bit so please give us some relief.”

The rates for the property equate to $253,000 a year, and the Government’s rate abatement of $2600 per lease would equate to about $15,000 for the couple, an easing of about seven per cent, they said.

Lyn says any rate rebate or waivers would immediately be passed on to the local businesses renting in the premises.

“We need help so we can help them,” she said.

“They have been saying ‘we have been put into a coma and we need life support’. It is no good saying we can defer something or speak to your bank, we need action now.”

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