Australia Headed For Trillion Dollar Debt After Unprecedented Coronavirus Payouts
Australia is looking down the barrel of a trillion-dollar debt brought on by the coronavirus crisis, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese warned on Wednesday.
"The scale of this expenditure that we'll consider today is without equal in our nation's history. We are headed for a $1 trillion debt," Albanese said.
"It is a bill that will saddle a generation. With this comes a compelling need for scrutiny and forensic oversight," he added.
Ratings agency S&P Global also claimed there has been a "substantial deterioration" in the nation's finances, with Australia risking a deep recession.
"The COVID-19 outbreak has dealt Australia a severe economic and fiscal shock," it said.
"We expect the Australian economy to plunge into recession for the first time in almost 30 years, causing a substantial deterioration of the government's fiscal headroom at the 'AAA' rating level."
Albanese's somber message was delivered during a historic parliamentary meeting to pass the government's $130 billion JobKeeper package.
Under the JobKeeper scheme, the Government will pay $1,500 to eligible businesses for each employee per fortnight to protect businesses impacted by coronavirus.
The separate JobSeeker payment will cover those ineligible for the JobKeeper payments, paying $1,100 a fortnight to those who've suffered unemployment and financial hardship.
Despite the mounting debt Australia is confronting, Albanese said the economy should work "for people -- not the other way around".
He called on the government's JobKeeper scheme to be expanded to include the one million casual workers currently ineligible for payments.
Most of those casual workers are not able to access the scheme because they have not worked with the same employer for 12 months as required.
"This fails to recognise that in the modern workforce, many workers defined as casual, but who have been stood down, have expectations and financial commitments based upon that regular work and income that they do," Albanese said.
"We are also concerned about permanent workers being forced to take their annual leave at this time. This will not be in their interest, or in the long-term interest of the economy."
Another concern raised was the exclusion of temporary visa holders from JobKeeper arrangements.
"Now, I agree with the Prime Minister -- that if a temporary visa worker can go home in the midst of this crisis, they should. But the reality is that most cannot," Albanese said.
"As borders close and international flights are cancelled, that means there are some one million people who remain in Australia without work, without access to healthcare, and without a means of support."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the JobKeeper scheme was designed to protect millions of Australian jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.
"Today is not about ideologies. We check those at the door," he told parliament.
"Today is about defending and protecting Australia's national sovereignty."
However, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the Coalition would not consider Labor's amendments to the JobKeeper scheme which is just one part of the sweeping $320 billion coronavirus measures.
Despite this Labor will not block the bill, as Albanese claimed the party "want a speedy package of the wage subsidies, which will make a difference to people's lives."
The historic sitting of Parliament was half-empty, allowing politicians to socially distance, with bottles of hand sanitiser lining the tables.
The draft laws are expected to pass the Lower House on Wednesday afternoon before being sent to the Senate.
The special parliamentary meeting follows a social distancing slip-up between Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese earlier on Wednesday.
Frydenberg was captured trying to shake Albanese's hand before he was told off by the Labor leader.
"We can't do that," Albanese said, shaking his head with disapproval.
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