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Take it to the limit: Govt defends end to support funding

Politics

The federal government has defended its decision to stop support payments for businesses in lockdown areas, saying there were limits to how long it could provide the measures.

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The payments for affected businesses in Victoria, NSW and the ACT will end once vaccination targets of 80 per cent double dosed are met.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said there will be a tapering of support once that rate is reached.

“We have provided $13 billion in support across NSW, Victoria and the ACT, and by the time we lift those targets, we will hit $20 billion, well in excess of $1 billion a week,” he told ABC Radio National on Friday.

“There are limits to how long we can continue to provide that, and that is aligning with vaccine targets.”

It comes as the federal government is still pursuing money from businesses and individuals who were paid JobKeeper supplements despite not being eligible for the scheme.

Birmingham said the ATO was in the process of identifying people who had wrongly received the money as part of the federal scheme.

A recent government review of the $89 billion scheme found more than 30 per cent of recipients who had compliance checks were not eligible at all.

“If someone was in breach, the tax office will continue to undertake that work,” he said.

“The ATO has a strong compliance program and the ATO will go after people identified as breaking the rules.”

While the reaching of vaccine targets would see support payments end, it would also lead to the reopening of state borders.

However some leaders have expressed reluctance to relax entry requirements due to large case numbers in lockdown states.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton said premiers needed to open up state borders once the agreed targets were met.

“There is a sensible arrangement of coming out of this at 70 and 80 per cent, we are seeing this play out in NSW, and now in Victoria as well,” Mr Dutton told the Nine Network.

“Queensland, SA and WA, being the rest of the country, has to adopt the model and keep the deal they have made.”

Ahead of Friday’s national cabinet meeting, federal health advisers want mandatory vaccination for all healthcare workers across the country.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state and territory leaders will receive the advice at a virtual meeting of the national cabinet on Friday afternoon.

While most jurisdictions have set dates for bringing in the measure – or put in place a range of policies covering different sections of health and aged care – others have been waiting for a national approach.

It is understood the peak advisory body – the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee – will recommend the move for all states and territories across all healthcare sectors.

Earlier this month the Australian Medical Association called for a national approach, including legal protections for healthcare employers who mandate vaccinations for all their staff.

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