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JobKeeper, JobSeeker changes at top of Parliament agenda

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The future of JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments are top of the agenda as federal parliament returns for the first time in more than two months.

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A branch-stacking scandal in the Liberal Party and coronavirus failures in aged care are also in the spotlight.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann is focused on passing legislation to reduce and extend JobKeeper wage subsidies and the JobSeeker dole payment.

“That’s obviously important to give businesses and working Australians who rely on these payments certainty that the arrangements remain in place,” he told reporters.

Labor wants both support payments retained at their existing rates for six months.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese is concerned the unemployment crisis is set to worsen, with Treasury predicting the effective jobless rate will climb above 13 per cent.

“The new jobless figures that were released again this morning indicates double digit unemployment, indicates there’s a whole range of businesses that are really struggling and that require this support,” he told ABC radio.

“Early withdrawal of support will mean the downturn is deeper and that it lasts longer.”

The legislation would scale back JobKeeper payments from $1500 to $1200 at the end of September, and then down to $1000 from December to March.

“At some point we need to get back into a situation where viable, profitable businesses pay for the wages of their employees out of their income rather than on the basis of taxpayers’ support,”  Cormann said.

JobSeeker has temporarily been doubled to a maximum $1100 per fortnight through to September.

The government wants to reduce it to $800 until the end of the year before developing a longer-term plan.

Branch-stacking allegations in Victoria could be a major distraction for the Liberal Party.

Pressure is on assistant treasurer Michael Sukkar and veteran MP Kevin Andrews to explain what they knew of the allegations.

Labor smells blood in the water and is demanding the prime minister remove Sukkar from the ministry.

“Someone needs to tell Scott Morrison that he’s actually in charge of the Liberal Party,” Albanese said.

The opposition will also focus on aged care as parliament resumes, with minister Richard Colbeck under significant pressure.

Senator Colbeck could not say how many residents of federally-regulated nursing homes had died from coronavirus when he faced a parliamentary inquiry last week.

He was also unable to answer how many residents had been infected.

Parliament will operate quite differently over the next two weeks, with many MPs and senators unable to travel to Canberra.

Video links have been set up in the House of Representatives and the Senate, allowing representatives of both chambers to make speeches and ask questions of ministers.

They will not be able to vote.

-AAP

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