The NSW Treasurer has called for the reintroduction of the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme amid Greater Sydney’s COVID-19 outbreak as Labor demands a summit to discuss the health crisis.
But the federal government has poured cold water on Dominic Perrottet’s suggestion, arguing its current support payment structure is simpler and more flexible.
Tensions are high in NSW as case numbers continue to rise and police hunt down thousands of people who ignored public health orders on Saturday to protest lockdowns.
Despite a lockdown of Greater Sydney entering its fifth week, case numbers of the deadly Delta strain of the virus hit a new high on Saturday as NSW reported 163 new local infections.
Visitors to the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse cancer hospital in Sydney’s inner west have potentially been exposed to the virus.
NSW Health indicated that visitors to the centre around lunchtime on Tuesday were considered to be close contacts, after a patient who attended for an appointment tested positive.
Disquiet over the lockdown erupted dramatically on Saturday afternoon, as thousands marched through Sydney’s CBD.
Arrests and anger
At least 57 people have been arrested over the protest action, which Premier Gladys Berejiklian said left her “utterly disgusted”.
Two men have also been charged with allegedly striking a police horse.
A team of more than 20 detectives is working to identify more of the protesters and either charge or fine them.
The NSW government is frustrated with rising case numbers, which have persisted despite the imposition of more severe restrictions.
Mr Perrottet, from the Liberal Party’s right-wing, on Sunday called for the reintroduction of JobKeeper, telling Nine newspapers that workers were in danger of “slipping through the cracks” amid an extended lockdown.
He said JobKeeper was crucial in 2020 for maintaining the relationship between employers and stood-down employees.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions has also called for the reinstatement of JobKeeper.
The NSW government had earlier lobbied the federal government to reinstate JobKeeper, but without success.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Sunday again knocked back Mr Perrottet’s suggestion, saying current support was adequate.
“It’s a lot more flexible, it’s available to casuals and it’s money that is going out the door as quickly as 40 minutes,” Mr Frydenberg told Sky News.