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Labor sounds warning about 'industrial flexibility' plan

Politics

Federal Labor backs the Morrison Government’s extension of the JobKeeper wage subsidy but it is wary of its demands to extend the industrial relations flexibility that went with the initial package.

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Treasurer Josh Frydenberg wants to see this flexibility extended to businesses even if they no longer qualify for the payment.

He argues that business will still be doing it tough even when they come off JobKeeper.

“So this is very much aligning the interests of employers and employees and giving business the best possible chance to get to the other side,” he told ABC television’s Insiders program on Sunday.

But shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers is very wary about these temporary crisis time arrangements becoming permanent.

“We think it would be a bizarre and potentially disastrous conclusion for the government to draw that the best way to deal with rising unemployment and rampant underemployment is even more job insecurity for Australian workers,” Chalmers told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program.

Last week the Government announced JobKeeper will be extended beyond its legislated cut-off date in September, but will be reduced from $1500 to $1200 a fortnight and halved to $750 for those working fewer than 20 hours a week.

From January, JobKeeper will be further reduced to $1000 for full-time employees and $650 for part-time workers until March.

At both stages, businesses will have to requalify for the scheme by demonstrating a significant drop in revenue.

Companies with less than $1 billion in turnover will need a 30 per cent fall in revenue, while the threshold is 50 per cent for large companies.

Chalmers also mocked Frydenberg for boasting that he drew his inspiration from former US President Ronald Reagan and former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

He said it would send a “shudder down the spine” of every Australian worker.

ACTU president Michelle O’Neil was equally unimpressed.

“I think this is crazy talk from the treasurer,” she told ABC television.

She said under Margaret Thatcher the “rich get richer and the poor get poorer”.

“You saw an increase in the rate of those who were unemployed, a slashing in the amount of income support and benefits that went to people, the privatisation of private housing, entrenching long term poverty,” she said.

“This is not something our treasurer should be looking at.”

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