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23 March 2020

Interview with Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon, The Today Show, Channel 9

Note

Subjects: Coronavirus support package; Economic impact of coronavirus; Coronavirus impact on schools;

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Treasurer, good morning to you on this Monday morning after a very big 24 hours. Hundreds of thousands of casual workers in bars, restaurants and cafes have effectively just lost their jobs. I can’t imagine, well I can imagine a little bit, but what they’re going through is terrible. How are you going to help them out?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

What we announced yesterday was a $66 billion package to cushion the blow for those casual workers, for those sole traders who have seen their hours worked or their income cut as a result of the coronavirus. It brings to a total of $189 billion, Karl, of various financial measures that we’ve announced just in the last 10 days alone. That’s around 10% of GDP.  So this will include a new Coronavirus Supplement of $550 a fortnight which is available to people whose income falls below $1,075 a fortnight; a new $750 payment to more than 5 million Australians including pensioners, people on Carer’s Payments, people with a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card or people on Family Tax Benefits; we’ve relaxed the deeming rates for pensioners; we’ve relaxed the minimum draw down rates for retirees; and we’re giving people access to their superannuation by allowing them to take out up to $10,000 this financial year and up to $10,000 next financial year, all tax free. So, they’re a very significant package of measures to support Australian sole traders, casuals, retirees, pensioners and others on income support.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Treasurer, how easy or quickly will it be for these individuals, and also for small businesses, to get their hands on the money? Because that’s one of the criticisms that we did see during the bushfires is the delay in getting that money to people who really need it.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

People can contact their Services Australia which is effectively the Centrelink now, they’ll be able to make applications online. Obviously, if they are going to be able to, if they are going to take what used to be called Newstart and now the Jobseeker Payment, that will be made available as quickly as possible. We’ve waived the waiting periods and that’s really important. We’ve also waived the assets test. There is still an income test that needs to be complied with, as you would expect us to have, but what we have done is reduce those waiting periods so people can apply for their Jobseeker payment.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

This is just the start, obviously, and you need to throw everything at it which is what you’re doing right now in a really effective way. We’re hearing all sorts of things about what might happen down the track in terms of a uniform wage for everyone when businesses go out of business and people are unemployed. How close are we moving towards that?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

What you’ve got now for somebody who is unemployed with this new Jobseeker coronavirus Supplement and the traditional Jobseeker payment, is at least $1,100 or more a fortnight that will make its way into peoples’ pockets if they find themselves in that situation. So, we are very conscious that people still need to meet the costs of their groceries and other bills even though they might be stood down or they might have lost their job or their hours worked have been reduced. At the same time, we’re providing unprecedented amounts of incentives to small businesses to actually keep their staff on. What we announced yesterday, Karl, was up to $100,000 for small businesses linked to the size of their wages bill, and I think that’s another important thing that we’re doing, as well as wage subsidies for businesses who have apprentices and that will support 117,000 apprentices. And various other things we’ve done on the regulatory front. So we’re pulling out all stops to support the economy at this time.

ALLISON LANGDON:

And just very, very quickly. Should parents be sending their kids to school this morning? Yes or no?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Parents need to make their own decisions about that. But what the schools will be doing is obviously remaining open and depending on the state or the length of the term. But there was an agreed position at the National Cabinet last night which the Prime Minister clearly stated, which is that the schools after the term break are expected to come back but that will depend on the medical advice at the time. But I know schools are also making provisions for people to learn from home as well.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Josh, we know you have to bounce. Thanks for your time today, appreciate it.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Good to be with you.