Premier Daniel Andrews says action on insecure work must be a feature of Victoria’s economic recovery from the COVID crisis, with 1.5 million Victorians expected to be reliant on the federal government’s JobKeeper wage subsidy by the end of September.
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg predicted on Friday that nearly half of Victoria’s private sector workers would soon be reliant on the payment as he announced changes that will allow another 530,000 workers stood down from their jobs to claim JobKeeper.
With more than $13 billion of the additional $15.6 billion pledged to JobKeeper by the Commonwealth on Friday set to flow to Victorian workers, Mr Andrews said he was grateful to the Prime Minister and Mr Frydenberg for the additional support.
“I’ve always been very clear about how critical JobKeeper and the adjusted rate of JobSeeker [is] and I’m sure businesses, workers and certainly our government, me personally, we are very grateful for that,” the Premier said.
Mr Andrews indicated that further economic stimulus announcements from the Victorian government were unlikely while the tough stage four restrictions made it "incredibly difficult" for government to "provide businesses with customers".
The Premier said more stimulus would be announced in October’s budget and in the short term, the government’s focus would be on keeping businesses afloat through its "survival payments".
But Mr Andrews, whose government has pledged to take action on working conditions in the gig economy, said insecure work had contributed to the pandemic.
"This issue of insecure work, this pandemic has exposed just how fragile the financial arrangements and employment arrangements of hundreds of thousands of Victorians are,” the Premier said.
“It’s no good for public health. It’s no good for much at all actually.”
South Yarra cafe owner Matt Lanigan said he had no doubts about the importance of JobKeeper after the wage-subsidy scheme saved him from being forced to permanently close his business.
Seven of the Lucky Penny cafe's 13-strong team have been on JobKeeper since March but the remainder are ineligible for the payment because they are international students, meaning Mr Lanigan has had to significantly cut their hours.
“Without JobKeeper we’d be shut and the business would be closed. That’s the fact of it,” he said.
"Our team is small but they all need to pay rent, put food on the table, and without JobKeeper they wouldn’t have been able to."
While Mr Lanigan said his cafe would have continued to qualify for JobKeeper after September, he welcomed the reduced burden on businesses like his, who no longer need to show a downfall in revenue for the June quarter as well as the September quarter.
Mr Lanigan had plans to top up his employees’ JobKeeper payments when they drop to $1200 in September but Melbourne’s stage four restrictions, which restrict venues to takeaway and will be in place until at least September 13, will make that impossible.
“I think the expansion is great nationally but there should be extra support for Victorian businesses,” he said.
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