27 April 2020

Australians understand that the Government had to move quickly to provide support for employers and employees to get through the economic crisis caused by COVID-19.

Labor has been supportive, responsible and constructive, working with the Government to get much-needed support out the door.

But being constructive does not mean remaining silent when there are clear gaps that must be filled.

Labor supported the introduction of JobKeeper not because it was perfect, but because we knew that financial assistance was urgent.

Unfortunately the proof is in the pudding and my office has been hearing from employers and employees alike that JobKeeper is confusing and leaves too many behind.

Many employers cannot afford to pay JobKeeper upfront and be reimbursed later. As such, these businesses may not be able to participate in the scheme, which will see hundreds, if not thousands of local workers miss out on these much-needed wage subsidies.

Many businesses with little to no cash flow are trying to secure bank loans before the end of the month to pay employees’ wages. If a business employs casuals and part-time workers who usually earn less than $1500 per fortnight, it is even harder. That is because eligibility for JobKeeper requires a business to pay all its employees at minimum $1500 per fortnight.

My office has been contacted by a number of businesses in this predicament. They are facing the real possibility of not getting the cash in time.

I welcome the news that a number of the big banks now have dedicated hotlines to speed up loan applications. The banks need to do what they can to support businesses trying to participate in JobKeeper. Even if available, businesses are considering whether they can afford the compound interest that will be attached. If they can’t, they won’t get access to JobKeeper. This is a bad outcome for the business and their employees.  

The Treasurer has said he's doing everything he can to prevent those job losses but that's not the case. The Treasurer has been given extraordinary powers to fix the JobKeeper fiasco. More can and should be done.

If you are a business needing help with a bank loan, the following banks have set up dedicated hotlines:

ANZ: 1800 571 123

Bank of Melbourne: 1300 784 873

Bank SA: 1300 669 472

CommBank: 13 26 07

NAB: 1800 JOBKEEPER (1800 562 533)

St George: 1300 730 196

Westpac: 1300 731 073