Australia is fighting a war on two fronts. We are facing an unprecedented health crisis but at the same time we are also facing an economic crisis. The past weeks have been tough for all of us but the weeks ahead will be tougher.
But no matter how great the challenge, all 25 million Australians need to know that their government has their back.
Our priority all along has been to prepare and resource our health system for the challenges that lie ahead. But also we have never lost sight of what is needed to cushion the harsh economic impact for Australians from the coronavirus as we build a bridge to the recovery.
That is what the hibernation strategy has been all about.
We are partnering with the banks to support lending to their SME customers and the banks are providing a six-month reprieve from borrowers having to make repayments.
We are ensuring that tenants who are facing significant hardship as a result of the coronavirus crisis will have the security of a sixmonth moratorium on evictions.
We’re also working with the utility and insurance companies, who also have a responsibility in this Team Australia moment to help their customers get to the other side.
But most importantly, the government has been focused on keeping as many Australians as possible in a job and Australian businesses in business.
This has seen the government help provide loans of up to $250,000 and cash payments of up to $100,000 for hundreds of thousands of SMEs.
Where people have lost their job, we have doubled the safety net with a new coronavirus supplement.
But yesterday we went further, much further.
At a cost of $130 billion over the next six months we are providing support to the Australian worker like this country has never, ever seen before.
Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures and this new $1500 a fortnight JobKeeper payment will provide job security at a time when it is needed most.
This payment will give working Australians their best chance of keeping their job and keep them connected to their employers so that they can bounce back in the recovery phase.
This $1500 flat payment is the equivalent of about 70 per cent of the median wage and represents about 100 per cent of the median wage in some of the most heavily affected sectors, such as retail, hospitality and tourism.
It will be available to full-time and part-time workers, sole traders and, in the case of casuals, to those who have been with their employer for 12 months or more.
The not-for-profit sector is also covered by this scheme.
From yesterday, employers and sole traders will be able to apply to the Australian Tax Office for workers who are on their books as of March 1 and the payments will flow from the first week of May.
If employees have been stood down by their employer since March 1, they are still eligible for these payments.
To be eligible, the turnover of the business will need to have fallen by 30 per cent or more, or in the case of businesses with an annual turnover of more than $1 billion, by 50 per cent or more.
Our wage subsidy scheme for Australia is unlike those that have been announced by other countries.
It’s more generous than New Zealand’s scheme; it’s broader than the United Kingdom scheme as it applies to all employees, not just those who have been stood down; and it is available to all firms, not just small businesses, as is the case with the Canadian scheme.
Our scheme, which will operate for six months, not just three months as is the case for New Zealand and the United Kingdom, is uniquely Australian with every eligible employee receiving the same wage subsidy.
Yesterday’s announcement, together with our previous two packages, including the $105 billion injected into the financial system with the Reserve Bank of Australia, sees total support from the federal government during the coronavirus crisis to reach $320 billion or 16.4 per cent of GDP.
This unprecedented level of support reflects the unprecedented moment that we find ourselves in.
It is the means by which we will get Australians to the other side of this crisis.
JOSH FRYDENBERG IS THE FEDERAL TREASURER.