MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire Council wants the federal government to reinstate the JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments to “support our Victorian communities during this unprecedented pandemic”.
“Our communities are suffering and they need greater income support which we, as a local government, can’t deliver them; we’ve pulled all the levers we have available,” Cr Sarah Race told council’s Tuesday 27 July meeting.
“I have spent the last week and a half hearing from and reading about the anguish of business owners and community members and their very real struggle with lockdown five.
“Most of us know public health measures are necessary in a pandemic, however, that doesn’t make situations any easier.
“Many of our business owners have had to stand down staff. Many people are wondering how they’re going to feed their families – even with the amazing support of our hardworking community organisations.
“Many people are trying to figure out how they’re going to pay their rent, mortgage and utilities.”
Cr Race said the shire had “one of the highest rates of JobKeeper support”.
“The JobKeeper wage subsidy was paid through the employer’s payroll system, so employers could only receive payments for as long as a worker remains employed,” she said. “This kept employees connected to their places of employment.
“JobKeeper stopped 700,000 jobs from being lost in the first half of 2020.
“The new COVID-19 disaster payment of $600 separates employers and employees. $600 is also $150 less per week than the minimum wage.
“Services Australia are also reporting a massive backlog of claims. Our people are struggling; our businesses are struggling, and our community is struggling.”
Cr David Gill questioned why Cr Race was saying the matter was urgent “when it wasn’t eight months ago”.
Cr Anthony Marsh: “It is urgent. To push it out to next month [17 August council meeting] is madness. It is based on current data and events and is happening now.”
Cr Race said later: “Regarding the JobSeeker supplement, this pandemic isn’t going away anytime soon, with continuous lockdowns and a lack of viable support for businesses we will see rising unemployment and more of our community on the ropes.
“We need our unemployed to be supported properly when hopes of long-term and full time employment, particularly in hospitality and retail businesses, is perilous.
“Many people are calling for the reinstatement of JobKeeper, including the NSW Treasurer. This is not a radical move. Until the vaccination roll-out picks up pace and we are at herd immunity, lockdowns will continue to play a part in how we fight this pandemic.”
Cr Race said the shire was “pulling all the levers it can to support our people through COVID-19 financial hardship policy, our $9 million COVID-19 recovery budget, as well as other stimulus. However, we do not have the ability to implement wide ranging income support”.
“Local and state governments and much of the private sector do not have the ability to support our community in this way, our federal government does [and] that is why I’m seeking this urgent business be passed this evening.”
Copies of the shire’s request will be sent to state MPs David Morris (Mornington), Neale Burgess (Hastings), Chris Brayne (Nepean), and federal MPs Peta Murphy (Dunkley) and Greg Hunt (Flinders).
Crs Steve Holland and Susan Bissinger excused themselves before the vote was taken.