Victoria criticises the Prime Minister over extended Covid assistance package for NSW

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Elesa Kurtz THE CANBERRA TIMES/ACM
Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Elesa Kurtz THE CANBERRA TIMES/ACM

The Victorian government has slammed the Prime Minister over what it sees as double standards in the delivery of federal COVID-19 financial support, describing Scott Morrison as the "Prime Minister for NSW".

Mr Morrison said on Tuesday it was in the national interest to provide further federal assistance to NSW as the current COVID-19 outbreak spreading out of Greater Sydney has proved "more severe" and "more dangerous" than seen anywhere else in Australia.

Under a new federal and state support package, the temporary COVID-19 Disaster Payment for workers in designated hotspots, announced during the most recent Victorian outbreak, will be expanded and increased to up to $600. There's also a jointly funded support payment of up to $10,000 a week to businesses that can demonstrate a 30 per cent turnover decline.

The Victorian government, which has just brought a COVID-19 outbreak under control, says people in Sydney and NSW deserve every possible support, but the two states are receiving different federal treatment.

"Victorians are rightly sick and tired of having to beg for every scrap of support from the federal government," a government spokesperson said in a statement.

"It shouldn't take a crisis in Sydney for the Prime Minister to take action, but we are seeing the same double standard time and time again.

"His job is not to be the Prime Minister for NSW."

The extended package, which has been called "peace of mind" by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, is worth $500 million a week, with the costs to be met equally by the state and Commonwealth governments.

"The NSW outbreak has proved to be more severe, more dangerous," Mr Morrison said.

"And it's in the national interest that we now put in place an upgraded set of arrangements for co-operation with the states and territories ... that will first be put in place here with NSW when lockdowns enter into more protracted situations.

"Help is here and help is on the way as well. That's, I think, our key message."

Both Victoria and NSW failed in a bid to convince the federal government to restart the $90 billion JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme. Victoria secured the temporary Disaster Payment for workers under a national scheme and is crying foul at the increase for NSW.

"We had to shame the federal government into doing their job and providing income support for Victorian workers when we battled the Delta strain earlier this year," the spokesperson said.

"Their position at the time was a disgrace."

"If they had bothered to think about this at the time and work with Victoria, they'd already have had a practical framework in place when NSW went into lockdown and more people would have got the support they need earlier."

A federal government spokesperson rejected the Victorian criticism.

"Victoria received the same support for its two week 'circuit-breaker' lockdown as NSW has for its first two weeks of lockdown," the spokesperson said in a statement.

"The conditions for payments and the levels of payments were exactly the same."

The outbreak of the particularly virulent Delta strain of COVID-19 has spread beyond greater Sydney with a Sydney man working at a construction site at Goulburn Hospital testing positive. The worksite has been shut down and the surrounding region including Canberra has been placed on red alert.

Over the past 24 hours New South Wales has recorded 89 new cases and the current outbreak's second death with health officials reporting the death of a man in his 70s.

Under the extended financial support package, people who have lost between eight and less than 20 hours of work a week will be able to access an increased payment of $352. The payment will increase to $600 if a person has lost 20 or more hours of work a week.

If the lockdown is ongoing, the payments will be recurring.

From Sunday, the Disaster Payment will be available to workers outside Commonwealth declared hotspots in NSW. The State Government will fund the extension.

New South Wales will also implement and administer a new jointly-funded payment business support payment of between $1,500 and $10,000 a week to businesses that can demonstrate a 30 per cent decline in turnover.

It is available to entities, including not-for-profits, with an annual turnover between $75,000 and $50 million.

To be eligible, the businesses must maintain their full time, part time and long term casual staffing levels.

"Our intention always is to have this lockdown not go longer than it needs to," Ms Berejiklian said.

"But these payments will make sure that whether you are someone who runs a business or someone who is an employee, you will be able to respect the rules we put in place and also have peace of mind."

As well, there is also a joint Commonwealth and State Government mental health package worth $17.35 million including $7 million for headspace outreach support to parents and young people across Greater Sydney.

There's also $3 million to support culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities with a focus on communities in south-west and western Sydney.

Federal Labor says it is a "humiliating day" as it shows the government was too quick to end the $90 billion JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme.

"This is a humiliating day for the Prime Minister and the Treasurer," Labor's Treasury spokesman, Jim Chalmers, said.

"We said all along that they were too quick to cut JobKeeper and too slow to roll out the vaccines. Unfortunately, that's turned out to be the truth."

This story Victoria slams Scott Morrison as 'Prime Minister for NSW' first appeared on The Canberra Times.