$130 Billion JobKeeper Scheme to Help 6 Million Australians

$130 Billion JobKeeper Scheme to Help 6 Million Australians
Prime Minister Scott Morrison (front) in the House of Representatives on April 8, 2020 in Canberra, Australia. (Sam Mooy/Getty Images)
Sophia Jiang

Up to 6 million Australians are set to benefit from a $1500 (US$935) fortnightly wage subsidy starting from May, after the government’s historic $130 billion JobKeeper package passed both houses of Parliament—with opposition support—on the evening of April 8.

The package, announced on March 30, aims to keep Australian workers connected with their employers during the economic downturn induced by the (Chinese Communist Party) CCP virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus. It also brings the government’s total economic stimulus support to $320 billion or 16.4 percent of GDP.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is confident that the extraordinary action will provide Australians with hope and more certainty to get through one of the toughest times in the country’s history.

“This unprecedented level of financial support will save millions of jobs and keep families together, businesses in business, and preserve the productive capacity of the Australian economy,” he said in a statement on April 8, after the bill passed the Senate.

The $1500 fortnightly payment is the equivalent of around 70 percent of the national median wage and represents a full median replacement wage in some of the most heavily hit sectors, including retail, hospitality, and tourism.

The speedy ratification of the package displays rare bipartisanship. The opposition Labor Party backed the legislation even after the party’s proposal to expand access to the program to more casual workers and temporary visa-holders were voted down in the House of Representatives.

“This package isn’t perfect,” Labor leader Anthony Albanese said on Twitter on April 9.

He said that Labor had spent weeks arguing for the amendments but made it clear that “we aren’t going to stand in the way of support that millions of Australians need right now.”

The pre-tax subsidiary, calculated from March 30, will be paid to employers from the Australian Tax Office starting the first week of  May. It will last a maximum of six months, for each eligible employee who has been engaged by March 1, either full-time or part-time.

Casuals who have been with their employer for more than a year, sole-traders, as well as New Zealanders on 444 visas are also eligible.

Eligible employers include businesses (including companies, partnerships, trusts, and sole traders), as well as non-profits that meet the criteria below:
  • A turnover of less than $1 billion that have lost 30 percent or more of their revenue since March 1 over a minimum one-month period.
  • A turnover of $1 billion or more that have seen at least a 50 percent reduction in revenue since March 1.
By April 8, more than 700,000 businesses had registered for the program.

A new Senate select committee, led by the Labor frontbencher Katy Gallagher has been established to scrutinise government policy and spending.