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Wage subsidies for business revealed in mammoth $130 billion package

National

UPDATED | Businesses will be given wage subsidies of up to $1500 a fortnight for each worker to keep staff on during the coronavirus crisis as part of an unprecedented $130 billion package.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiled the Federal Government’s third and biggest round of economic stimulus on Monday.

“We want to keep the engine of our economy running through this crisis,” he said.

The Federal Government will give the $1500 allowance to businesses that have taken a 30 per cent hit to turnover because of the coronavirus.

Companies turning over more than $1 billion will be eligible if they have taken a 50 per cent hit.

The subsidies will last for six months, with full-time, part-time and casual workers who have been with their employer for at least 12 months eligible.

Sole traders have also been included in the package.

Payments will flow to businesses in the first week of May and will be backdated to March 30.

Workers stood down since March 1 will be eligible.

Morrison said some countries would face economic collapse or hollowing out in coming months as the disease spreads globally.

“In the very worst of circumstances, we could see countries themselves fall into chaos – this will not be Australia,” he said.

The latest package comes on top of almost $70 billion in already announced federal government stimulus.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Australia was facing an economic and health war.

“The past weeks have been tough but the weeks ahead will be tougher,” he said.

“Australians know that no matter how great the challenge is, our government has their back.”

Coupled with support for banks, the government has so far set aside $320 billion, or 16.4 per cent of GDP, to deal with the fallout from the virus.

Virus toll increases

Australia has recorded 17 deaths from coronavirus following the death of an elderly woman in Tasmania overnight, to mark that state’s first virus fatality.

There are now 3984 confirmed cases nationally, with NSW the worst-hit state with 1791 cases, including 186 on the weekend.

Victoria recorded 84 new cases, taking the state’s total to 769, with a fourth death overnight.

SA has 299 cases, WA 311, the ACT 77 , Tasmania 66 and the NT has 15.

Following Tasmania’s first virus death, Premier Peter Gutwein warned that anyone disobeying the two-person-in-public rule coming into effect nationally from midnight will be committing an offence.

“Our police will ensure that they enforce this. You will be able to be arrested. You will be charged and summonsed,” he said.

People have been ordered to stay home unless they are going to work, school, getting essential supplies or medical supplies, providing compassionate care or exercising.

Govt to guard against foreign takeover of exposed Australian business

Foreign bids for Australian businesses will face beefed up investment rules designed to guard against predators swooping during the coronavirus crisis.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will be able to block any overseas takeovers, after the threshold to intervene was temporarily slashed from $1.2 billion to zero.

It comes amid concerns cashed-up foreign predators could target Australian businesses following major losses on the share market.

Frydenberg said national security, competition issues, tax concerns and the investors’ character would shape any decision to block foreign investment.

He denied the move was aimed at Chinese state-owned enterprises, pointing to US investment in Australia far outstripping the Asian superpower.

Chinese firms invested $13 billion in Australia last year, while US companies made investments worth $58 billion.

“We want to stop any predatory behaviour that is not in the national interest,” he said on Monday.

But Liberal backbenchers have raised concerns Australian companies could be exposed after company values suffered after stock exchange carnage.

Chinese companies bought Australian medical supplies in recent weeks with the virus sparking a surge in demand.

Health insurer postpones premium hike

NIB is postponing its April 1 health insurance premium increases for at least six months in a move to ease the economic burden on members.

The insurance giant on Monday said freezing the premium increase – which averages 2.9 per cent – complemented other moves to provide direct premium relief for members experiencing financial hardship.

It comes after not-for-profit insurer HBF cancelled its premium increase last week.

-with AAP

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