Statement on the Second Economic Response to Coronavirus

22 March 2020

Labor is supportive of the Government’s second economic response announced today.

Labor is supportive of the Government’s second economic response announced today.

Labor will continue to work responsibly and constructively with the Government, including on the passage of legislation through the Parliament.

While there are some welcome measures in this package, Labor is concerned this response lacks urgency, leaves gaps in support and does not go far enough to protect jobs.

No measure announced today guarantees that support will be used to keep workers on, and many struggling households could miss out on support.

Every Australian needs the Government to get this right, which means getting the original stimulus and today’s additional measures out the door as soon as possible, and urgently closing the gaps identified by Labor and others.

This is no time for half measures or delay.

To meet the scale of this challenge the Government’s response must be large enough, deployed quickly enough and be targeted enough to support livelihoods and prevent more job losses, business failures, and a more serious economic downturn.

Labor is concerned that the Morrison Government’s latest response has not substantially addressed some gaps we identified in the original stimulus, and raises additional concerns which we will work through with the Government, including:

  • No substantial support to protect jobs and no guarantee that businesses receiving support will keep workers on;
  • Concern that the Coronavirus Supplement may not be available for some Australian families struggling to put food on the table, particularly given there has been no change to the income test;
  • Concern that payments to households, including to pensioners, will arrive too late;
  • Concern that cash flow assistance to businesses will arrive too late and will not help otherwise viable businesses most at risk of collapse;
  • The lack of more substantial support for sole traders and the self-employed to help them stay in business;
  • The absence of any direct support for renters, despite the Prime Minister flagging this as a serious issue last week;
  • No Coronavirus Supplement for students, even if they lose their part-time job or have their hours cut;
  • That the expansion of early release superannuation risks undermining retirement incomes and compromising financial system stability, and should only be a last resort;
  • The $1 billion regional and community support fund still lacks any detail;
  • The lack of more substantial support for charities, including food banks, and organisations that provide essential services to vulnerable Australians; and
  • The absence of a coordinated, whole-of-economy plan, and lack of sufficient support and planning for essential and strategic industries, including but not limited to the airline industry, childcare sector and the arts.

This unfolding economic crisis demands urgency, scale and coordination, but the Morrison Government’s initial and subsequent responses have come too late, been too slow, and have too many gaps.

Businesses are already closing, workers are already being laid off and many vulnerable Australians are at serious risk.

Labor’s priority is to protect jobs, help Australian workers, businesses, families and communities through this difficult time, and ensure vulnerable Australians are supported.

We understand people are anxious at the moment which is why Labor will continue to be supportive, responsible and constructive and that means injecting a sense of urgency where it is lacking or absent.

Australians need Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg to do a better job getting this support out the door than they did with the drought relief, bushfire relief and the original stimulus.