Victoria lockdown should lead to reconsideration of JobKeeper changes, Labor says

With the tightest coronavirus restrictions in Australia looming for parts of Victoria, the Federal Government should reconsider a reduction in the rate of the JobKeeper payment, Labor says.

Less than two weeks ago the Government unveiled the future of the $86 billion scheme, with payments to reduce by $300 per fortnight at the end of September, with a further reduction pencilled in at the beginning of next year.

But since the announcement, Australia has recorded some of its worst coronavirus figures, with persistently high infection numbers in Victoria prompting talk of more stringent lockdown measures.

Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers told the ABC’s Insiders program the Government should “take another look” at its announcement.

“When it comes to JobKeeper, we’ve always said that JobKeeper should be tailored to the economic conditions.

“Clearly JobKeeper won’t be provided forever but nor should it be withdrawn too quickly.”

Scott Morrison speaks at a podium.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says economic figures given 10 days ago are already outdated.(ABC News: Ian Cutmore)

On Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison conceded the economic figures released in the July economic update, which pointed to a $184 billion deficit this financial year, had been rendered optimistic by the Victorian outbreak.

“The Victorian wave is certainly having that impact.”

Mr Chalmers today stopped short of calling on the Government to maintain the current JobKeeper rate of $1,500 per fortnight, but said a reconsideration of the rate was worthwhile.

“In the first instance, let’s see how the Government responds to the fact the decisions they took on JobKeeper were based on some pretty rosy assumptions about restrictions in Victoria actually easing rather than becoming more restrictive,” he said.

“We’ll have the opportunity to speak with Treasury officials during the course of this coming week to see what the implications of that withdrawal of support will be.

“We’ll come up with a position once we know what the Government intends to do.”