The government is yet to decide how to handle the changes and some of its MPs, such as North Sydney Liberal Trent Zimmerman, are arguing for a compromise that would allow the temporary $1100-a-fortnight JobSeeker rate to fall to a level higher than the old Newstart rate of $555 a fortnight at the end of September.
Mr Albanese did not name the rate he wanted for the JobSeeker allowance or the alternative deadline he wanted for JobKeeper.
“I don’t think it should be kept at the level where it is, where JobSeeker is higher than the age pension,” he said on radio station 2SM. “That’s not a reasonable proposition. But it is the case, I think, that JobSeeker shouldn’t go back down to $40 a day.”
Labor and the Greens have strongly criticised the old Newstart rate on the grounds it was not enough to live on.
Greens leader Adam Bandt attacked Labor for accepting any fall in the JobSeeker payment, calling it an “absolute betrayal” of working people and people looking for work.
“Labor and Liberal now want support payments to be cut in a couple of months, even with an economy in recession,” he said. “We can’t cut our way out of this crisis by hurting those who need our help.”
Mr Albanese called for a “transition” away from the JobKeeper wage subsidy on the grounds it would not work to end all the payments on the same day for more than 6 million recipients.
“That will produce a shock to the economy and there needs to be a much more sensible, pragmatic transition out of the process,” he said.
The Labor caucus agreed last week to demand the widening of JobKeeper to include workers at universities and at some state-owned companies such as airport services group dnata.
While there were differences over the policy process, because the Labor plan did not go to a special expenditure review committee until after the caucus debate, the policy was endorsed and Labor is pursuing it in the Senate to try to change the JobKeeper rules.
There are no public Labor costings on widening the wage subsidy to more workers or extending it beyond its scheduled end date.
Liberals are also speaking up for changes to the scheme, with southern Sydney Liberal MP Craig Kelly calling for dnata and its 6000 workers to be included even though the company is owned by the Investment Corporate of Dubai. Backbenchers Warren Entsch of the Liberals and George Christensen of the Nationals spoke in the Coalition party room last week about the need for assistance to the travel and tourism sector.
David Crowe is chief political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.