Australian Treasurer Urges States to Stump up More Cash to Help the Economy Cope With Covid-19

August 8, 2020 Updated: August 11, 2020

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is applying pressure on states and territories to stump up more cash to help the economy cope with COVID-19.

The national virus death toll on Aug 8 reached 278 as restrictions on movement and borders continued to take a hammer to business.

Frydenberg championed the federal government’s $314 billion spend on bracing Australia against the virus, including through programs such as JobKeeper and JobSeeker.

By comparison, he said states and territories had promised about $44 billion.

“The states can do more, the states need to do more. They have the balance-sheet strength to do so,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Saturday.

He singled out Victoria, saying nearly half the state’s private sector workforce will be on JobKeeper in the coming months.

“The expectation is that of the four million Australians who will be on JobKeeper in the September quarter, some 1.5 million of them will be Victorians.”

He said the support could come in various forms, such as small business grants, tax relief or bringing forward infrastructure projects.

“The Victorian government has already made some announcements, they’ve made around a half-billion-dollar announcement recently for small business grants and some relief for those businesses, but of course it needs to do more.”

West Australian premier Mark McGowan on Saturday announced $150 million for tourism upgrades for sites across the state including Perth Zoo, Rottnest Island and the Dampier Peninsula.

“We’re spending (the money) wisely on projects that can be implemented quickly and create the opportunities for private sector investment to build on them, and solve long term problems,” McGowan said.

He also announced spending as part of a broader $5.5 billion COVID-19 recovery plan on infrastructure upgrades through the Peel region south of Perth.

Tasmania on Saturday also expanded its small business recovery program, previously announced as worth $20 million.

Opposition Health spokesman Chris Bowen asked the government to be specific in what it wants.