Business, unions and welfare advocates agree the way forward post-coronavirus pandemic is job creation, skills and a decent dole benefit.
Their comments followed Josh Frydenberg delivering a parliamentary address on Tuesday, instead of the federal budget which had been due before the pandemic hit.
The treasurer’s much anticipated statement on the outlook was largely a re-run of his previous thoughts on a COVID-19 hit economy and was overshadowed by a coughing fit part way through, which resulted in him taking a test for the virus which proved negative.
“Yesterday I was tested for COVID-19 out of an abundance of caution on the advice of the Deputy Chief Medical Officer. This morning I received the result of the test which was negative,” he tweeted on Wednesday.
Even so, the economic figures in coming months are likely to be horrendous, with a spike in the unemployment rate to 10 per cent, coupled with a 10 per cent slump in economic growth.
The economy is expected to face a $50 billion hit in the June quarter.
‘”We were concerned that the treasurer yesterday really didn’t outline any plans for jobs and the economy coming out of this (crisis),” ACTU president Michele O’Neil told ABC radio on Wednesday.
She said it was critical to have plan that focuses on the creation of new permanent jobs and is calling for two million positions to be created and a halving of the number of insecure jobs.
“We went into this crisis with some pretty serious fault lines in our labour market – we have got the third highest rate of unsecured work in the OECD,” she said.
Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott agreed that employment must be the focus, but that does involve an improvement in the skills system.
“It’s has been wanting for a very long time,” she told the ABC radio panel discussion.
“It takes too long to get qualifications, too long to get skilled up, so that is one of the things I’d like to see, absolutely, at the top of the list.”
The treasurer says he wants to build confidence in the economy and ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie says that also means protecting the vulnerable.
“We all must focus on jobs opening up, but when, how, what they are going to look like are uncertain,” she said.
“Knowing that the government has got your back for the long haul is really crucial at the moment.”
The JobSeeker payment – formerly known as Newstart – has been doubled to around $1100 a fortnight in anticipation of a spike in unemployment.
But the government has indicated that this will return to $40 a day once the pandemic has run its course, a level that many see as too low.
“That payment level needs to be fixed above the poverty line – for a single person that is about $500 a week,” Dr Goldie said.
The Business Council, along with Labor, the Greens, economists and the Reserve Bank have being calling for an increase in the dole benefit for some time.
“There is no doubt that payment is too low – I have being saying that for years,” Ms Westacott said.