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PM says helping save economy is the patriotic thing to do


Scott Morrison is appealing to Australians’ sense of patriotism to guide the nation through the spread of the deadly coronavirus as his government prepares to jettison its planned surplus.

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But the Prime Minister will also reassure Australians his government won’t look at further cuts to essential services such as schools, hospitals and the NDIS as it deals with the economic impact of the health crisis.

His comments come amid increasing uncertainty over the looming pandemic, and the resulting economic downturn. Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter was today in talks with employers and union groups over protections for workers forced to call in sick.

The Morrison government is putting the final touches on a stimulus package, expected to be worth as much as $10 billion. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is still demanding disaster relief funding be part of the package.

In a speech to business leaders this morning, Morrison was to outline the seven principles guiding that economic response.

He’d argued it must be proportionate; timely and scalable; targeted to specific issues; aligned with other areas of policy including the RBA’s actions; use existing delivery mechanisms such as Centrelink payments; temporary; and lift productivity.

The coronavirus is a “new, complex, hydra-headed and rapidly evolving challenge”, he told the AFR Summit in Sydney.

“Whatever you thought 2020 was going to be about, think again,” Morrison said.

“We now have one goal in 2020: to protect the health, wellbeing and livelihoods of Australians through this global crisis, and to ensure that when the recovery comes, and it will, we are well-positioned to bounce back strongly on the other side.”

Morrison has sought to distance any such package from Labor’s response to the Global Financial Crisis, which has long formed part of the Coalition’s political narrative that Labor was unable to balance the budget.

“The measures must be temporary and accompanied by a fiscal exit strategy. They cannot be baked into the bottom line for years to come, keeping the Budget under water,” Morrison said.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says the government is no longer focused on its promised surplus.

“Our package will have an immediate impact across the economy, it will be targeted, it will be responsible and measured,” he told ABC news.

Later this week, Palaszczuk will use a Council Of Australian Governments meeting to demand disaster-level funding arrangements be enacted for businesses affected by the virus-led downturn.

“We see coronavirus as no different to the many floods, cyclones and now bushfires that Queensland deals with,” the Premier’s spokesman said today.

“We plan, we respond and we recover.”

While Morrison has twice rejected Palaszczuk’s request, the Queensland government believes the funding mechanism would be a crucial addition to the state’s existing payroll tax, tourism marketing and other targeted support.

“The importance of supporting affected businesses is that we will need them for the recovery after the virus threat has passed,” the spokesman said.

“Many tourism businesses and those who rely on them are cash-based. Like cab drivers. We have to ensure they are able to keep operating so they will be there when the natural disaster passes and industries can go back to production.”

Morrison described the crisis as a “team Australia moment” and tell businesses they can help out by paying suppliers promptly and keeping their staff in jobs.

“We need your perseverance, planning and enterprise. We need your common sense, calm and commitment. And we need your patriotism,” he said.

“Hold on to your people, you will need them on the other side. Wherever possible, support them – whether full-time, part-time, or casual – including with paid leave if they need to take time off due to the virus.”

Business Council of Australia president Tim Reed says the Government should provide temporary tax relief for small business, so they can retain staff

“If we can get businesses investing right now, they will come out stronger on the other side,” he told ABC radio.

Reed expects one-quarter of negative economic growth to occur because of the virus, and says people who lose their jobs because of the health crisis shouldn’t have to wait the regular time period to receive welfare.

Unions have raised fears about the fate of about 3.3 million Australians in casual jobs who don’t have access to paid sick leave.

The workers’ groups will raise the issue with Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter when they meet with him on Tuesday.

Stockmarkets plunged on Monday, shedding about $155 billion as a looming oil price war added to fears about the coronavirus.


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