Extension of temporary income support measures – Doorstop Adelaide

E&OE…

MINISTER RUSTON:          
I want to assure all Australians that their Government is committed to providing ongoing temporary levels of support to support them through the coronavirus pandemic and on the other side. As we announced in the July Economic Fiscal Update, we would be continuing both the JobSeeker and the JobKeeper payments at elevated levels past the end of this week. As of Monday, the JobKeeper payments will be in two tranches, one for people who work for more than 20 hours a week will receive $1200 a fortnight and those that work for less than 20 hours a week will get $750 per fortnight. But you do not need to be unemployed to access JobSeeker payment as well. So for somebody for instance who's on the full rate of JobKeeper of $1200 a fortnight who finds themselves in a situation where that is their only income, because their employer is not able to top up their payment, they are likely, if they're a single person without children, to be eligible for $276 of JobSeeker payment per fortnight as well. But that also means that the additional supplements and allowances that you get on a JobSeeker or an income support payment will also be available to them whereby for instance they may be eligible for rent assistance, a healthcare card, et cetera. And if they are people with children they will also be able to get the maximum rate of Family Tax Benefit.  In addition, and in the case of somebody who's on $750 a fortnight, on the lower rate of JobKeeper payment, they would be likely to access around $546 a fortnight as well as getting the other supplements too. As of Friday the JobSeeker payments will be extended for a further period of three months to 31 December. The supplement will be paid on an ongoing basis at $250 per fortnight but in addition we'll be introducing an income free area of $300 which basically says to people who find themselves in a position where they can get some work that we will allow them to earn the first $300 before they lose any of their payment. What we seek to do by this is to create a balance between people with elevated levels of support, recognising that our job market is very shallow at the moment but also to provide the right incentives for them to re-engage with the jobs market. So we will continue to monitor over the coming weeks and months the economic conditions that exist particularly in the job market and we'll be making further announcements about any further temporary measures when that information is available to us. So thank you.

JOURNALIST:          
Given you're increasing the age pension as well in the Budget, plus these measures, is there any idea of how much impact it will have on the bottom line?

MINISTER RUSTON:          
Well look clearly matters for the Budget are not something I'm going to speculate on here today. But certainly, the Budget will be very focused on getting the economy opened up and getting people back to work.

JOURNALIST:          
Is the Government doing enough to support the aged care sector?

MINISTER RUSTON:          
Well I mean the Government has made significant investments in the aged care sector, particularly in relation to supporting the sector deal with the COVID pandemic. But clearly we've also got a Royal Commission which will bring back to us a whole heap of recommendations which we will act on but we will continue to make ongoing improvements for the sector while we're waiting for the Royal Commission to report.

JOURNALIST:          
What happens to the coronavirus supplement after the three months?

MINISTER RUSTON:          
Well as I said we will continue to monitor the economic conditions and most particularly the state of the jobs market going forward and we'll make some decisions about what we might do post 31 December closer to that date. But I want to assure all Australians if elevated supports are continued to be needed they will be made available.

JOURNALIST:
So it's in the Budget?

MINISTER RUSTON:          
No, later in the year. I mean the decisions that we've made, the changes that we make at the end of this week haven't even come into force yet. So we need to wait to see what happens with those and also to see how the economic conditions improve. Hopefully, as we move further forward this year, hopefully, we'll see Victoria come out of lockdown and restrictions sooner. So we'd like to wait a little bit longer so we've got better economic statistics and information before we make any further changes.

JOURNALIST:
You spoke before about importance of incentivising work. We're hearing that cherry farmers are struggling to find workers to pick [indistinct]… Is there a need for JobSeeker to come down so it doesn't discourage people from seeking work?

MINISTER RUSTON:          
Well, we're concerned about the concerns of the cherry growers and a number of other industry sectors have said that they're having difficulty in actually finding employees. That's why part of the measures that will be coming in on Friday is the reintroduction of mutual obligations, for people outside of Victoria, to seek for them to start engaging with the jobs market again. Because we believe that no Australian who is unemployed should be turning down a job if they are able to do it. And also on Friday, as part of the changes to JobSeeker going forward, we've put that income-free area of $300 in place, which hopefully will further incentivise people who are unemployed to take up the jobs that are available when they come available.

JOURNALIST:
Is applying for eight jobs though too many when there's not really that many jobs out there?

MINISTER RUSTON:                      
Well, what we've sought to do is to- it's a maximum of eight jobs. And in economies and marketplaces where there is good employment, we would be seeking people to undertake the search for eight jobs. But we understand that there are other parts of our economy that don't have high levels of employment available and so the job service providers will be allowed to make decisions in relation to the number of job searches somebody has to do that reflect the market conditions in their area.

JOURNALIST:
How does the Government intend to promote skills and support apprentices when there aren't even enough jobs to go around for existing tradies?

MINISTER RUSTON:                      
Well, clearly one of the things we will be seeking to do going forward, part of our plan to get out of the COVID crisis, is to make sure that we build the economy back up again. We've done it before, we'll do it again so that we can make sure that these jobs are provided but we are particularly concerned about young Australians. They were certainly, along with women, some of the hardest hit when the pandemic first came in and jobs were lost. I mean pleasantly we've seen quite a number of those jobs have been the first ones to return but it is young Australians that we're very focused on and that's why we want to focus on reskilling and particularly apprentices. But to do that, we have to make sure that our economy is opened up and we get on with the job of building the economy again.

JOURNALIST:          
How is the Government effectively going to dismount from these wage subsidy programs like JobSeeker and JobKeeper?

MINISTER RUSTON:                      
Clearly we had to put in place very, very broad measures when we found out the pandemic was going to hit back in March. And so we put a blanket over the economy to provide the supports for all Australians to get through. On Friday and Monday, this is our first stage of a step down to try to move away from just blanket levels of support to provide additional incentives into the market place, to try and recreate a good balance between the levels of support that people clearly need in this absolutely once in a century pandemic, but also we need to incentivise people to get back into the market. We need to support businesses to get on with the job of doing what they do because they're the ones that create the jobs for Australians.

JOURNALIST:          
How would tax cuts to high and middle income earners, how would those tax cuts actually help people to spend more, when experts say those people earning higher levels of money are more likely to save? How's that going to generate more in the economy?

MINISTER RUSTON:          
I'm certainly not going to speculate about what's in the Budget. But what I would say is that the Government is very focused on a broad suite of measures to improve aggregate demand because it's through aggregate demand that we'll be able to stimulate the economy.

JOURNALIST:
Tens of thousands of Australians are stranded overseas due to COVID. They've registered their desire to come home through DFAT. Labor says the increased cap on Australian arrivals isn't enough and more needs to be done. What do you say to that?

MINISTER RUSTON:          
Well clearly we were very pleased on Friday that the states and territories at National Cabinet made the decision that they were all going to increase their caps. We saw New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia all agree to increase their caps. Clearly the Government will continue to work with all states and territories so that we can lift the caps such that all Australians who are overseas will have the opportunity to come home but in addition to that through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, we have made available no-interest loans to people to support them with their living costs while they're overseas but for those that we are able to get home, to assist them with their repatriation costs. Thanks.