Josh Frydenberg launches attack on Daniel Andrews over lockdowns

More than 400,000 unemployed Victorians are set to have their dole payments slashed by $300 a fortnight in the Senate this week as they remain confined to their homes to protect fellow citizens’ lives.An estimated one in ten Victorians is now unemployed according to a new Treasury analysis of the ‘real’ jobless rate in the…

More than 400,000 unemployed Victorians are set to have their dole payments slashed by $300 a fortnight in the Senate this week as they remain confined to their homes to protect fellow citizens’ lives.

An estimated one in ten Victorians is now unemployed according to a new Treasury analysis of the ‘real’ jobless rate in the state battered by COVID-19 shutdowns.

But it’s the proposed cuts to welfare payments have sparked fears the move will plunge thousands of Victorian families into poverty after losing their jobs through no fault of their own.

New Treasury figures obtained by reveal another 30,000 people were forced onto unemployment benefits in Victoria directly as a result of the second lockdown since July.

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The devastating cost of the restrictions designed to save lives has been outlined in figures to be released by the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg that reveal 400,000 Victorians are now officially unemployed and surviving on the dole.

“Restrictions imposed by the Victorian Government have had a devastating impact on the economy,’’ Mr Frydenberg said.

“The number of Victorians on unemployment benefits has significantly increased with the impost of restrictions while numbers in other states have declined.”

“In July the effective unemployment rate in Victoria, before the stage four lockdown, was around 10.5 per cent, while it was around 8.5 per cent in NSW where they are managing the virus and have reopened their economy.”

Speaking on Sunrise this morning, the Treasurer said if the shock figures didn’t convince Victorian Premier Dan Andrews to outline a road map out of lockdown, nothing would.

“It is not just me who has been critical. You heard from no less than the Medical Association saying that what has been happening in Victoria is like watching a car crash,’’ he said.

“What we want to see from the Victorian government is a road map out of these stage four restrictions. We know that they are costing the economy severely.”

Mr Frydenberg said what was needed to reopen borders was a clear definition of hot spots that was agreed to at national cabinet.

“We need a definition, an agreed definition of a hotspot. To get a hotspot definition that is transparent, that sets out based on medical advice, clear metrics and can lead to a better movement across borders, particularly to show more compassion and more commonsense.”

But while Mr Frydenberg is releasing the figures to underline the cost to the economy of the outbreak, the Labor leader Anthony Albanese has argued it’s another reason why it’s the wrong time to reduce Jobseeker and JobKeeper payments.

“The idea that you withdraw support in the current circumstances is, in my view, premature, and will lead to a deeper and longer recession than is necessary,” Mr Albanese told ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday.

The dole was doubled in March to $550 a week to help thousands of workers who lost their jobs in the first wave of shutdowns.

But new legislation to be debated in the Senate will reduce the payments from $1100 a fortnight to $810.

RELATED: Proposed JobKeeper change could slash $300 a week from workers

Just months ago Victoria looked like it had COVID-19 beat when recorded no new cases for the first time since March on June 6.

But a silent outbreak was unfolding in the community as security guards working at several hotel quarantine facilities unwittingly brought COVID-19 home to their friends and family.

By June 29, hot spot suburbs in Melbourne’s north and northwest returned to lockdown and all international flights were banned and redirected.

By July 4, a full lockdown is announced for nine Melbourne public housing towers as cases exploded in the metropolitan area.

On Sunday, Victorian Premier Dan Andrews warned that cases would “explode” if restrictions were eased too quickly.

Mr Andrews said he would be outlining a road map out of the restrictions as soon as it was possible to do so.

“Everyone wants this to be over, nobody more than me,” he said.

RELATED: Treasurer digs in over JobKeeper cuts

There are currently 472 Victorians hospitalised including 25 people in intensive care and 11 relying on ventilators to breathe.

According to the new Treasury data, the Stage 3 restrictions appear to have had a larger effect on inner

suburbs, but this has become more widespread with the imposition of Stage 4 restrictions with a huge drop in spending.

“At the same time household spending in Victoria is down more than 30 per cent through the year while the rest of Australia is only down around 3 per cent,’’ Mr Frydenberg said.

“The accommodation and hospitality sector has borne the brunt of the restrictions with the growth in spending in dining and takeaway down more than 60 per cent and in the accommodation sector more than 80 per cent.”

“As we have seen in other states, if you can successfully suppress the virus jobs will return.”

Victoria’s brutal COVID-19 lockdown has also forced one million workers in the state onto the JobKeeper wage subsidy this year.

Even JobKeeper was not enough to save the jobs sacrificed to the second wave lockdown with the number of people forced onto the unemployment queues in stark contrast to other states.

The figures also reveal that more Victorians will also soon be relying on the $1500 a fortnight wage subsidy JobKeeper to survive than every other state combined.

According to the new figures, a stunning one million Victorian workers are now in jobs where their employers have been forced to rely on the wage subsidy JobKeeper to pay their workers

Mr Frydenberg is also resisting Labor calls not to allow employers to reduce workers’ wages below the JobKeeper rate.

“They can’t keep all of their employees fully employed because their doors are not necessarily fully open,” the treasurer told the Sky News.

“If we were to force those businesses to keep their staff working at 100 per cent of hours then ultimately that would cost jobs.”

The JobKeeper payment will be reduced from $1500 a fortnight to $1200 at the end of September and then down to $1000 from December to March.

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