Australia

Government announces $1,500 a fortnight wage subsidy to keep Australians in jobs during coronavirus shutdown

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announces the government's $130b wage subsidy package at a press conference at Parliament House Source: AAP

The unprecedented $130 billion package will also apply to casual workers who have been with a business for more than 12 months and New Zealand nationals.

The Federal Government will spend $130 billion to subsidise the wages of up to six million Australians during the coronavirus pandemic in a bid to stem the wave of people being forced onto welfare.

The $1,500-per-fortnight flat payment will be given to employers who have lost 30 per cent or more of their revenue to pass onto their employees in order to keep them on the books during the COVID-19 crisis. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the "Job Keeper Allowance" will apply to workers who have lost their job since 1 March and encourage employers to bring full-time staff back on when restrictions are lifted.

"Now is the time to dig deep, we are living in unprecedented times with the twin battles that we face and that we fight against a virus and the economic ruin it threatens," he said.

"Today, our government has made a decision ... that no government has made before."

The wage subsidy will cost the government $130 billion over the next six months and be administered by the Australian Tax Office, Mr Morrison said, in addition to $70 billion already committed in two earlier packages. 

"Some will say that it's too little, some will say that it's too much, but I say we have to work together," he said. 

The measures were flagged by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Monday morning, who said they were about "ensuring that people can continue to remain in jobs".

The payment will apply to full-time workers, part-time employees, sole traders and casual workers if they have been with a business for more than 12 months, with all workers receiving the same amount regardless of employment type or salary.

New Zealanders working in Australia, who don't have access to the welfare system, will also be eligible for the "job keeper" payment.

Mr Frydenberg said the payment equated to 70 per cent of the median full-time wage, and up to 100 per cent of the average wage in industries hit hardest by the restrictions, such as retail, hospitality and tourism.

Earlier on Monday, Labor's treasury spokesperson Jim Chalmers said it was important that the subsidy extended to casual workers.

"We need these wage subsidies to be comprehensive, broad, conditional on people staying in work," he said.

Parliament will be recalled in order to pass the legislation required for the package, which will be paid from May but backdated to the beginning of March. 

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. 

If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000. 

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch