Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says support for Victorians is now a matter for the state government after its lockdown ‘dented confidence’.
Support for Victorians is now a matter for the state government, after its lockdown “dented confidence” and cost jobs, the treasurer says.
Melburnians woke up to eased restrictions on Friday, after an initial seven-day lockdown was extended to the end of this week as the state brought its latest Covid-19 outbreak under control.
The federal government in June unveiled a new emergency payment for Australians stuck in Commonwealth-designated Covid-19 hotspots, with the Commonwealth to cover the cost of payments to individuals and the states to fund those to businesses.
Speaking after talks with state and territory treasurers on Friday, Josh Frydenberg said states “make decisions about lockdowns” and were responsible for additional support once the payment was no longer available.
“It’s very clearly defined. It relates to where there is a Commonwealth hotspot, and now that hotspot has been lifted here in Victoria,” he told reporters in Melbourne.
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“My view is I’d love everyone to be able to get back to work as quickly as possible.”
Mr Frydenberg revealed around 50,000 applications for the emergency payment had been made in Victoria since it was announced, saying ongoing federal government support remained available via paid pandemic leave and the Jobseeker payment.
Acting Victorian Premier James Merlino on Wednesday announced $8.36m in additional business support, conceding the “hardship doesn’t end” with the easing of restrictions.
The treasurer said talks with Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe showed a “very positive outlook” on Australia’s economic recovery, but avoiding further lockdowns was critical to continuing that trend.
Mr Frydenberg would not be drawn on whether the Victorian government had made a mistake in extending the lockdown, but was “very concerned” over its impact on the state’s economy.
“Clearly, this lockdown dents confidence, it hits investment, (and) it ultimately costs jobs,” he said.
“Many people are still working from home and you can see that on the streets here. The quicker we can get people back to the CBD in Melbourne as, as indeed across the country, the better.”
Labor argued the Victorian lockdown would have been avoided had Australia’s vaccine rollout kept pace with expectations.
Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles praised the Victorian government’s early intervention which had prevented a longer outbreak.
“The way in which we get on top of these outbreaks is to deal with them hard, and deal with them fast,” he told 2SM Radio on Friday.