JobKeeper wage subsidy dominates debate as parliament resumes

Prime Minister Scott Morrison (L) and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg during Question Time Source: AAP

The federal government's wage subsidy scheme is expected to dominate debate when politicians kick off a two-week sitting of federal parliament.

Wage subsidies to help millions of Australian workers through the coronavirus storm are expected to dominate debate when politicians return to Canberra.

MPs and senators will kick off two weeks of federal parliamentary sittings on Wednesday with the Morrison government's JobKeeper scheme in the spotlight.

Labor has railed against the coalition's decision to end payments to 120,000 childcare workers months ahead of schedule.

Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers told reporters in Canberra the wage subsidy scheme was leaving too many Australians behind.

"JobKeeper is a very good idea being very badly implemented," he said. 

"It wasn’t that long ago that Scott Morrison was saying if you have a go, you get a go, well now he’s saying to so many workers - you’ve had a go, now off you go to Centrelink.”

Jim Chamers at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, May 14, 2020
Jim Chalmers at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra.

The government argues a transitional payment being offered coupled with other measures is fairer as demand for childcare sector returns.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the change was a better means of supporting the sector.

"This was always going to be temporary support," he said.

"We're supporting them in a fairer, more equitable and a targeted way enabling and ensuring that parents who can afford to do so contribute to the cost of the childcare of the children the way they did in the past."

Senior cabinet ministers have pointed to Treasury's review of JobKeeper when asked if more sectors would be sliced out of the scheme.

Mr Cormann denied the government had broken a promise by ending JobKeeper payments for childcare workers.

"The JobKeeper program remains in place and the JobKeeper program will remain in place until the end of September," Mr Cormann told the ABC.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week guaranteed JobKeeper would continue for the full legislated period.

Mathias Cormann at Parliament House in Canberra.
Mathias Cormann at Parliament House in Canberra.

 The Transport Workers' Union is calling for JobKeeper to be extended for aviation workers beyond the September cut-off, and gathered outside Parliament on Wednesday. 

TWU secretary Michael Kaine said the scheme needed to be extended to help workers needing certainty.

"They deserve to know that the government intends to keep their vital industry afloat so they can continue paying their bills and supporting their families," he said.

The Senate will vote on changing the program's eligibility to include workers at foreign government-owned companies, like airline services provider dnata.

While the government is opposed to the changes, Labor and the Greens will aim to get three crossbench senators to support the disallowance motion.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has said the outcomes of the inquiry would be released alongside a financial update on July 23.

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