How good are the JobKeeper changes?

TAA comments on ScoMo's freshly announced amendments.

On Friday, the federal government announced more changes to the JobKeeper scheme following the introduction of increased restrictions in Victoria, with a further $15.6 billion investment to help more people.

Scott Morrison said: “We’re expanding JobKeeper as well as providing further childcare relief for Victorians, the new Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment and more mental health support.

Key adjustments include:

  • A change to the employee reference date – from 3 August 2020 the relevant date of employment for an eligible employee will move from 1 March to 1 July 2020, expanding employee eligibility.
  • A change to the turnover reference period – to be eligible for JobKeeper post 28 September 2020, organisations will only have to demonstrate that their actual turnovers have significantly declined in the previous quarter.

As a result, organisations that are able to demonstrate a significant decline in turnover in the September 2020 quarter will be able to access the JobKeeper extension in the December quarter. An organisation able to demonstrate the requisite decline in turnover in the December 2020 quarter would be able to access the JobKeeper extension in the March 2021 quarter.

The combined effect of the economic deterioration in Victoria which will see more firms needing to rely on JobKeeper and the eligibility changes being made to the program will see the cost of JobKeeper increase by around $15.6 billion in 2020-21.

While these changes will apply nation-wide, it is expected that more than 80 per cent of the increased payments will flow to Victorian businesses and employees. These changes, combined with a deterioration in the economy as a result of the stricter restrictions imposed in Victoria will see the total cost of the JobKeeper program increase to $101.3 billion.

It is now expected that around 4 million Australians will be benefiting from JobKeeper Payments at the end of the September quarter, falling to around 2.24 million in the December quarter and 1.75 million in the March 2021 quarter. 

 “Australia is facing a situation that is constantly changing. Our response is to get the right support to all those Australian families, workers and businesses that need us, as these circumstances change,” the Prime Minister said.

“This means more support for more workers and more businesses for longer, as we battle this latest Victorian wave.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the introduction of stage four restrictions by the Victorian Government will have a severe economic impact on the Victorian and Australian economy.

“Already more than 270,000 businesses covering around 975,000 employees in Victoria are being supported by the Morrison Government’s JobKeeper Payment.”

“To help keep more businesses in business and Australians in jobs through this incredibly challenging period, the Government will ease the eligibility criteria to make it easier for organisations to qualify for the JobKeeper extension from 28 September 2020. These change will add to the $15 billion the Morrison Government has already contributed to the Victorian economy through JobKeeper and small business CashFlow boost payments.”

On hearing the news, Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) welcomed the changes, saying the amendments will ensure more workers remain gainfully employed throughout Australia’s hotels.

TAA CEO Michael Johnson said the Government was responding to the unpredictable nature of COVID-19 with agility, helping to boost confidence within the accommodation industry.

“TAA have continued to make the case to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Frydenberg that amendments to the scheme were necessary to ensure more businesses were eligible through what are clearly a highly volatile few months,” Mr Johnson said.

“Today’s announced changes will increase the number of businesses who can access the scheme and keep their workforce engaged. These are reasonably minor adjustments that will deliver major benefits and we commend the Federal Government for their ongoing agility in responding to COVID-19.”

“We know that Australia’s accommodation industry has been one of the hardest hit sectors as a result of the pandemic and the next few months remain highly precarious. We will continue to work cooperatively and collaboratively with Government to secure outcomes that keep hotels afloat and workers in gainful employment during this unprecedented crisis.”

The revision to JobKeeper to include seasonal tourism staff was also welcomed. Following advocacy by Tourism Council WA, the Federal Government has announced a revision to the proposed JobKeeper extension which will include seasonal tourism workers which started after March 1 and before 1 July, if the business is eligible for the program.

Tourism Council WA CEO Evan Hall said the amendment was a huge win for seasonal tourism businesses in northern Western Australia.

He said: “Most seasonal tourism businesses don’t fire up until late March or early April, so their usual seasonal staff were not previously eligible for JobKeeper.”

Last month, Tourism Council WA wrote to all WA Federal Members of Parliament, supported by 2,500 signatures on a petition, calling for JobKeeper to be extended to include seasonal tourism workers.

“We congratulate the Federal Government for listening to the needs of seasonal tourism businesses in northern WA and making this revision,” Mr Hall said.

Tourism Council WA will now focus on ensuring the amended JobKeeper legislation meets the expectations of industry and passes through Federal Parliament quickly.

“These changes will give those seasonal tourism businesses in WA certainty and support to keep going after the end of the season and start up again next year,” Mr Hall said.

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