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Ongoing job losses spur renewed calls for national wage subsidy


Industry leaders have renewed calls for the introduction of a federal wage subsidy, as support schemes across the states continue to reveal inequities and encounter delays.

By John Buckley 14 minute read

New payroll data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) last week showed a 9.2 per cent job decline in Western Sydney over the first five weeks of Greater Sydney’s lockdown, which took effect on 26 June. 

The figures showed that Greater Sydney’s lockdown has had knock-on effects on job losses across other states, as Victoria recorded a 2.6 per cent decline; South Australia saw a fall of 4 per cent; Tasmania, 2.1 per cent; and Queensland, 1 per cent — with each enduring lockdown restrictions of some kind over the last five weeks.

Employers in New South Wales, however, have been able to expect up to $100,000 in JobSaver each week, based on 40 per cent of their weekly payroll, while large hospitality and tourism businesses can now also expect payments of up to $500,000 a week.


Businesses in other states have access to a smorgasbord of grant and support payments, but none that dictates that staff must be kept on their payroll.

ACTU president Michele O’Neil said last Thursday that the Morrison government should reform and reintroduce JobKeeper to support workers across the nation.

“We had a system in place last year which ensured that even in a long lockdown, working people remained connected to their employer — the Morrison government decided to end this prematurely, weeks before their failed rollout plunged millions of working people back into lockdowns,” Ms O’Neil said.

“We should reform and reintroduce the JobKeeper system to include all casual and visa workers in all industries, make it available to everyone affected by a lockdown and ensure it cannot be rorted by employers.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison in July promised residents of Victoria and other states that they, too, would soon receive support schemes identical to JobSaver, which is only available to residents of NSW.

“At the end of 14 days [of a lockdown], we would be providing to all states and territories the same arrangements that we are entering into now with the New South Wales government for business,” Mr Morrison said at a press conference at Kirribilli House in mid-July.

“Now for all other states and territories, the Commonwealth, in those circumstances, will administer those payments for business.”

As Victoria heads into its fourth consecutive week of lockdown, the only additional support the state has offered to employing businesses is an extension to its Business Costs Assistance Program.

The program offers businesses an additional $5,600 but doesn’t require them to maintain their employee headcount.

The Institute of Public Accountants’ general manager of technical policy, Tony Greco, said leaving it up to the states to roll out support during extended lockdowns will result in unfair outcomes for businesses.

“The patchwork of relief from states all doing their own thing in response to a national emergency is making it worse than last year when we had a Commonwealth approach,” said Mr Greco.

“JobSaver was supposed to be the national response to extended lockdowns going beyond two weeks for business support. 

“The patchwork approach to business support will result in businesses receiving different outcomes for the same set of circumstances which is what the PM was trying to avoid when he made [his] announcement.”

According to the ABS, almost every industry across the nation saw falls in their payroll jobs in the second half of July. The arts and recreation services sector, which saw a fall of 5.9 per cent, and the accommodation and food services industry, which saw a 5.8 per cent drop, were the hardest hit.

Meanwhile, among larger employing industries, the accommodation and food services, retail trade and construction industries accounted for the largest falls in payroll jobs through the two weeks to 31 July.

The NSW government moved to remedy impacts felt by large businesses in the hospitality and tourism industries by expanding the state’s JobSaver scheme to large businesses. But similar moves have yet to be made by other states and territories.

Ms O’Neil said the job losses observed across the country, and Western Sydney in particular, are unnecessary and could have been prevented by an effective vaccine rollout.

“The rates of job losses we are seeing in Sydney and elsewhere are appalling and completely unnecessary. We should be supporting working people through lockdowns, not allowing them to lose work and then asking them to pick up the pieces when it’s over,” she said.

“The Morrison government is responsible for the impact of their botched vaccine rollout and should take responsibility for ensuring that working people have something to return to when lockdowns are finally over.

“Working people cannot continue to pay the price for the incompetence of this government’s vaccine rollout.”

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John Buckley

John Buckley


John Buckley is a journalist at Accountants Daily. 

Before joining the team in 2021, John worked at The Sydney Morning Herald. His reporting has featured in a range of outlets including The Washington Post, The Age, and The Saturday Paper.

Email John at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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