Stricter shutdown laws, further cuts to deeming rates and early access to super are just a few of the measures announced by the government as part of the ‘Stimulus 2.0’ package to help Australians through the coronavirus crisis.
“We have the example and inspiration of generations that have dealt with challenges like this before, and we have the advantage of the lessons that they have passed on to us about how we can stick together … to build a bridge to the recovery on the other side,” said Mr Morrison.
“We cannot prevent all the many hardships, all the many sacrifices that we will face in the months ahead. And while these hardships and these sacrifices may break our hearts on occasion, we must not let them break our spirit, and we must not let them break our resolve as Australians.
“Today we are making important announcements to support those Australians who will be in the front line of the blows that we will experience, the economic blows we will experience, as a result of the global health crisis, which is the coronavirus, and it’s severe economic impacts, to cushion the blow as much as we can, to build a bridge to the recovery on the other side.”
The government’s second-stage package also includes a call for Australians to cancel all non-essential travel as the nation tries to manage an increasing infection rate and its potential strain on the health system.
The cash handout of $750 to 6.5 million people on welfare and pensioners announced 10 days ago will now be supplemented by an extra $750 that will go to around five million people, including pensioners, veterans, Health Care Card holders and others who are not eligible for the new coronavirus benefit supplement.
The first payment is to be made on 31 March and the second payment would be made automatically from 13 July.
The newly unemployed will be granted tax-free early access to their superannuation – up to $10,000 between now and 1 July and another $10,000 from 1 July. The withdrawals will not affect pensions and will also be available to people on benefits and to sole traders and casuals who have lost 20 per cent or more in working hours. There will also be a temporary 50 per-cent reduction in superannuation minimum drawdown requirements for account-based pensions in 2019-20 and 2020-21.
The deeming rate for pensioners that was to be cut by 0.5 points, will be cut by another 0.25 percentage points.
The rate will now be 0.25 per cent for single pensioners with investments up to $51,800 and $86,200 for pensioner couples, and 2.25 per cent at the upper end.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said: “Since the government announced its first stimulus package just over a week ago, the global and the domestic economic environment has deteriorated. We now expect the economic shock to be deeper, wider and longer.
“Every arm of government and industry is working to keep Australians in jobs and businesses in business and to build a bridge to recovery on the other side.”
The government’s temporary doubling of the Jobseeker Payment (Newstart) will provide people with an additional $550 a fortnight, and will be available to sole traders and casual workers, provided they meet income tests. Asset tests and waiting periods to access the Jobseeker Payment will also be waived.
Mr Morrison said: “The nature of these payments and the purpose of these payments are changing
“This is clearly saying that we expect this to go on for some time and we know that those vulnerable groups may need additional income support during those periods.”
Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) chief Cassandra Goldie welcomes the increase to Newstart (JobSeeker) rates.
“We welcome this crucial doubling of Newstart and Youth Allowance for six months. Whilst we would never choose the circumstances under which these events are occurring, now more than ever, today’s announcement is important recognition that our safety net needs to be safe for everyone who needs it,” she said.
“This will come as a huge relief to so many right now. This increase is vital in order to prevent more people from falling into the poverty trap.
“We thank all of those on Newstart and Youth Allowance who have been sharing publicly how hard it is to get by on $40 a day. They demonstrated that the existing social safety net was broken.”
Dramatic lockdowns will be implemented from midday on Monday and Australians have been asked to limit themselves to essential travel only.
People can continue to go to the supermarket and work, but all interstate and long-distance trips should be cancelled, said the PM.
“The more Australians themselves assist us in this fight against the virus to protect lives and livelihoods, the more and better able we are to ensure that Australia comes out stronger on the other side,” he said.
“It is a simple plea, we need you.
“We need you to do your bit when it comes to social distancing and keeping that healthy distancing, to respecting and following the rules that we are setting down, but more stronger measures will be coming, and they will be coming in more localised areas to deal with outbreaks.”
The “stage one” restrictions will be introduced and will be reviewed on a monthly basis and are expected to last for at least six months, or earlier or later, depending on health advice.
The restrictions do not apply to isolated remote community hubs.
Depending on how Australians respond to stage one restriction, further stage two restrictions may be announced.
“We will be living with this virus for at least six months, so social distancing measures to slow this virus down must be sustainable for at least that long to protect Australian lives, allow Australia to keep functioning and keep Australians in jobs,” Mr Morrison said.
“We need every Australian to do their bit to save the lives of other Australians.
“The measures that we will be considering mean that state premiers and chief ministers may have to take far more draconian measures to enforce social distancing.”
Public transport services will continue to operate. Additional hygiene control measures have already been implemented.
- petrol stations
- convenience stores
- freight and delivery services
- shopping centres
- bottle shops
- hairdressing salons
- beauty salons
- places of worship
- entertainment venues
- indoor sporting venues
- cafes and restaurants will be restricted to takeaway only
Around 6000 food and personal care packages that include a two-week supply of goods will be distributed through the Red Cross to those most in need.
Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers Luke Donnellan said: “We very much need to reach out to those people in the community who don’t have support, those people who don’t have family, friends, neighbours and the like who could potentially provide them with assistance during a period of self-isolation.”
The packs include long-life milk, pasta, canned fruit, cereal and sugar; personal care items such as deodorant and toothpaste, and specialised items such as nappies for those who need them.
The packs will be delivered from Monday and can be accessed by calling Victoria’s coronavirus hotline on 1800 675 398.
A reduced number of politicians will return to Parliament on Monday to pass legislation required to implement the stimulus measures.
How do you think the government is responding to the pandemic? How will you get through this crisis? Will the announced measures help you through?
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