Australian treasurer defends delayed COVID-19 payment extension

Australian Treasurer Jim Chalmers has brushed off criticism that the government has been too slow to act to restore pandemic leave payments following rising COVID-19 cases.

The $750 pandemic isolation payment, which ended on June 30, was extended until the end of September following a national cabinet meeting on Saturday.

The government had previously ruled out bringing payments back due to budgetary pressures.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told reporters on July 12 when announcing the end of COVID-19 payments: “We are making an announcement today that will help the government’s bottom line at the federal level, and there is a series of things that we would like to do. , but we intend to be fiscally responsible in how we deal with issues.

With the change in stance, caretaker opposition leader Sussan Ley said the government had been dragged “kicking and screaming” to restore the payments.

Chalmers dismissed the comment, saying it was “his government just over eight weeks ago that designed this program to end at the end of June”, he told Sky News on Sunday.

“We will continue our work, working with states and territories, under the leadership of the prime ministers and chief ministers of both convictions.”

The Treasurer said there will be an increase in COVID-19 cases across the country in the coming weeks.

Chalmers said the change in health advice in relation to the new wave of COVID-19 cases was the reason payments were reinstated.

“Clearly for us, we’re about to have another spike in cases,” he said.

“We are very aware of health advice and that is why we have taken the plunge.”

Ley said the government was too late to react to the new wave of cases.

“We welcome the restoration of payments, but this is two weeks after they were stopped,” she said. “Anthony Albanese must apologize to all the casual workers who suffered stress as a result of this about-face.”

The Commonwealth will share the $780 million bill with the states and territories, but the Prime Minister could not say whether payments would be extended later beyond September 30.

A new telehealth program will start next week, allowing GPs to spend more time with patients to assess their suitability for COVID-19 antiviral treatments.

This follows the federal government’s termination of dozens of telehealth items, including longer consultations.

A national crisis payment for anyone with COVID-19 and in serious financial difficulty will also be reinstated.

Chalmers denounced opposition critics, saying they were just whining and complaining.

“There is a desire in the community to rally around these issues, and not constantly complain and complain about them.”

By Andrew Brown and Finbar O’Mallon. The Epoch Times contributed to this report.

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Elaine R. Knight