Australia’s borders could remain closed to non-citizens for six months or longer as the Morrison government prepares to unveil an unemployment payment for victims of a COVID-19 recession.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is preparing to announce the new welfare measures to provide a safety net for thousands of job losses that are now expected in the tourism industry.
After announcing the nation was taking the unprecedented step of closing the nation’s borders to non-citizens on Thursday, effectively banning tourism, the government is bracing for big job losses.
But it is preparing to announce new welfare payments for the thousands of families who will soon be forced to rely on welfare to survive.
“Our plan is to ensure that over the next six months, or as long as it then takes, that we can effectively build a bridge to ensure that Australians, Australian businesses, those that are impacted, we can bring them across that bridge and get them to the other side,” Mr Morrison said.
“Which is where on that side the economy is rebounding, Australians health has been rebounding and Australian life can go back to what it was.
“As a result, there are a range of measures that we continue to put in place – Measures that address both the health issues, matters in our aged care, as I addressed earlier this week.
“And importantly, there are measures that we have to put in place in relation to our economy.”
Mr Morrison said he would shortly have more to say about how the government will “cushion the impact” for as many as possible.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg conceded that a recession would be “difficult to avoid”.
“This is a massive hit to the Australian economy,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“This is an external event, beyond our control.
“The work that we have done to be able to get the budget back in shape to make these major announcements … that is what’s going to matter in the end, that is what is going to lead us to recovery.”
He conceded the borders could remain closed and Qantas international flights grounded for months, after the airline stood down 20,000 staff on Thursday.
“Again, we need to listen to the best possible medical advice,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“The Prime Minister said this will go for six months or more and they won’t be lifted until it is safe to do so, until we are on the other side of this very, very challenging period.
“The travel ban will last as long as the medical experts tell us that we need to prevent the spread of the virus, and one way to do that is through the steps we have announced today.”