The Australian Parliament on Thursday passed the government’s wage subsidy scheme, deemed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison as “the biggest economic lifeline” in the country’s history, as a response to deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
MPs and Senators re-convened in Canberra for a single day on Wednesday to legislate the A$130 billion ($81 billion) JobKeeper package, according to the reports.
Under the scheme, an estimated six million eligible workers who have had their work status affected by the COVID-19 pandemic will receive fortnightly payments of A$1,500 for about six months.
Addressing to the parliament, PM Morrison declared that “our nation’s sovereignty is put at risk and we must respond”.
“Today we act to protect our nation’s sovereignty. When Australian lives and livelihoods are threatened, when they are under attack, our nation’s sovereignty is put at risk and we must respond. As a Government, as a Parliament, as a nation, together.
“It will be a fight. It will be a fight we will win. But it won’t be a fight without costs, or without loss. Protecting our sovereignty has always come at a great cost, regardless of what form that threat takes. And today will be no different.”
On April 3, the states have closed their borders in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, the northeastern state of Queensland also tightened border restrictions with its neighbour New South Wales (NSW), denying entry to anyone without a valid reason.
NSW has been the hardest-hit in the country, accounting for close to half of the 5,000 confirmed cases as well as deaths.
Earlier in March, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton had tested positive for the deadly virus.
The scheme will be administered by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), with payments to be funnelled to employers who will then be obliged to pass them on to employees.
As of Wednesday more than 700,000 businesses had registered for the scheme through the ATO.
Frydenberg said on Wednesday that the passage of the legislation was “one of the most important days in this history of the Australian Parliament”.
The country has so far reported 6,010 coronavirus cases, with 50 deaths.
In March, the country had announced a nearly US$100 million boost in funding to tackle domestic violence after support services reported a spike in coronavirus-related family abuse.
With 336 cases of unknown origin, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said laws restricting public gatherings and limiting people leaving their homes could be in place for as long as six months, and did not rule out extending that period if health experts recommended to do so.
Earlier, PM Morrison said the Aus$150 million boost — part of an additional Aus$1.1 billion in health-related spending announced— would be spent on telephone support services for both domestic violence victims and abusers.
(With inputs from agency)