Subject/s: JobKeeper wage subsidy, Virgin Australia, Social distancing measures
BEN FORDHAM: Tens of thousands of businesses have signed up to the new JobKeeper wage subsidy in the scheme’s first 24 hours. Announced yesterday, it will see the Government pay businesses to pay their employees a fortnightly wage of $1500 for the next six months. The idea is to provide a safety net for employees and staff. No wages are covered, and business can reopen once the crisis is over.
Michaelia Cash is the Employment Minister. She’s on the line. Minister, good afternoon.
MINISTER CASH: Good afternoon Ben, and good afternoon to your listeners.
BEN FORDHAM: Have you got an update on how many people have applied?
MINISTER CASH: I do. As of 5pm, it was heading towards 287,000 ABN registrations. And what this says to me is that businesses want to do the right thing by their employees. They know that they need their employees when we get through this on the other side, and this measure has given them the confidence to hold onto their workforce. In some cases, I am getting calls from businesses, Ben, that had let their employees go, and they are rehiring those employees. That is good news for so many employees out there.
BEN FORDHAM: I mentioned that wages aren’t covered per say, but for many Australians this does cover the wage, at $1500 a fortnight.
MINISTER CASH: That is exactly right. So, employers, as you said, they’ll receive a payment of $1500 per fortnight, per eligible employee. For some of them, it will cover their wage. For others that are still in the workplace, the employer will need to top up that wage if it is more than the $1500 per fortnight. This is giving employers that confidence to hold onto their workforce, because as you and I know, this is all about keeping the connection between the employer and the employee and keeping people in their jobs, even though the businesses they work for may go into hibernation and close down. Businesses will close, some people will lose their jobs. But this is all about when the economy comes back, these businesses will be able to start again, and their workforce will be ready to go because they remain attached to the business through the JobKeeper payments.
BEN FORDHAM: Minister, the airline industry is fighting for survival and Virgin Australia has been very important in the Australian market, providing some competitions for Qantas and therefore better prices for us. Virgin Australia wants a $1.4 billion bailout from the Government. Are you going to give it to them?
MINISTER CASH: The Finance Minister has addressed this today and said it is a case-by-case decision, and I would refer that to the Finance Minister who is looking at this on a daily basis. Things move very, very quickly as we know, but what the Government has shown is that we are listening and that we are implementing. In particular when it comes to the announcement yesterday, $130 billion investment in Australians in employers and employees to keep employers in business and Australians in jobs.
BEN FORDHAM: I’ve mentioned to my listeners previously that you like to socialise by conducting karaoke gatherings in your living room. Have you had to put them on hold for now?
MINISTER CASH: Oh look, I listened to your introduction. It is so important for the reasons that you articulated that people actually do self-isolate, listen to what the Prime Minister and the National Cabinet are saying. And if you don’t need to leave home – except where you do need to go to work, you do need medical attention, you need to go to the shops to pick up the things that you need – for those reasons- you can exercise – you do stay at home. This is all about stopping the spread of the virus, and as difficult as it may be, we do need to ensure we are practicing those good health measures.
BEN FORDHAM: Yeah. Solo karaoke performances only for now, Minister. We’ll talk to you again soon.
MINISTER CASH: My poor neighbours, that’s all I can say, my poor neighbours.
BEN FORDHAM: Thank-you very much. Michaelia Cash, the Federal Employment Minister, with the current social distancing rules.