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Call to extend boosted Centrelink pandemic payments during economic woes

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Labor has ramped up calls to extend the current rate of wage subsidies and the boosted dole payment as the coalition pushes for workplace flexibility.

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The Morrison government has unveiled plans to continue pandemic-inspired emergency powers for employers to change workers’ hours, duties and location.

Under the bill due to go to parliament on Wednesday, businesses no longer accessing JobKeeper would retain the industrial relations flexibility measures provided a 10 per cent hit to revenue is shown.

The federal opposition has welcomed the revenue test after the government originally floated extending the provisions for all former JobKeeper recipients.

Labor is also arguing for the $1500 fortnightly payment to remain at that rate for another six months with Victoria’s lockdown smashing the national economy.

But the government is holding firm against the suggestion, along with calls to keep the unemployment benefit at around $1100 a fortnight beyond September.

The government’s bill would cut JobKeeper payments from $1500 to $1200 at the end of September, and then down to $1000 from December to March.

The government wants to reduce the $1100 JobSeeker rate to $800 until the end of the year before developing a longer-term plan.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said it was important to know which businesses would be viable into the future.

“We have to get back to a situation where viable and profitable businesses pay for the wages of their employees out of their income not on the basis of taxpayer support,” he said.

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers argued the situation in Victoria had changed since the government announced plans for scaled-down payments.

“The government is hell-bent on withdrawing that support out of the economy. It makes no sense to do that without a plan for jobs to replace it,” he told the ABC.

Independent senator Jacqui Lambie said small businesses were “on their knees” with economic conditions worsening since the government announced the changes.

“There’s not a soul in this parliament that thinks we are all going to be hunky dory four weeks from now,” she told parliament.

“If you do you would have to be delusional and you probably shouldn’t be sitting in parliament.

“We can’t be cutting people off from $1500 a fortnight when everybody is saying we are yet to break the back of this economic depression we are in.”

Victoria recorded 116 new cases on Monday and another 15 deaths, taking the national toll to 517.

-AAP

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