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No happy new year for JobKeeper, JobSeeker recipients

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JobKeeper payments to more than one million Australians will be slashed from today, days after another significant cut to Centrelink unemployment allowances, as the Morrison Government winds back emergency pandemic assistance.

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From Monday, people on the top rate of JobKeeper will see their payments cut by $200 a fortnight, while workers on the lower part-time rate will face a cut of $100.

The reduction comes as 2.2 million Australians are looking for work or more work, and government figures show unemployment is expected to hit 7.5 per cent in the March quarter.

Labor finance spokeswoman Katy Gallagher said 1.6 million Australians relied on the payment.

“These cuts will reduce critical support from the economy including from small businesses, regional communities and vulnerable Australians at a time of heightened uncertainty and new COVID-19 outbreaks,” she said.

Labor industrial relations spokesman Tony Burke said there was added stress on businesses particularly in parts of Sydney and surrounding tourist regions.

“Many business owners are seeing holiday bookings cancelled or empty tables in their cafes and restaurants at what is usually their busiest time of the year,” he said.

Government support must be tailored to changing economic conditions and targeted to the hardest-hit parts of the economy, Labor said.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told AAP the government had always said JobKeeper was to be a temporary program designed to taper off as economic confidence and momentum builds.

“We’re seeing that through the 734,000 jobs created over the last six months, with fewer businesses and their employees in need of JobKeeper and other temporary economic support,” Frydenberg said.

He said the government’s economic recovery plan also included a range of stimulus measures to keep Australians in jobs and business in business, including personal income tax cuts and the JobMaker hiring credit.

“With our economic recovery well under way, Australians have cause for optimism and hope as we emerge from the COVID-19 recession,” he said.

On January 1, the Morrison Government cut the maximum rate of JobSeeker unemployment allowance from $58 a day to $51 a day.

The Australian Council of Social Services said the winding back of the coronavirus supplement would hit recipients who for a few months were able to buy items and services previously unaffordable under the previous daily rate of about $40, which had not increased in real terms for decades.

ACOSS said this week’s JobSeeker cut had lowered payments from about $21,000 a year to about $18,500 a year and that if the coronavirus supplement was axed entirely in March as intended, without the base rate being increased, recipients would once again have to survive on about $14,500 a year.

-with AAP

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