“That is a real concern which is front and centre of peoples’ thoughts, and it’s a test for the government.”
Labor called for a wage subsidy in the weeks before Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced JobKeeper on March 30, leading Mr Albanese to position his party as a defender of the scheme and an advocate for continued support.
The key principles in the Labor approach are being described as the “three Ts” because they call on the government to “test, target and taper” the payment, which is worth $1500 per fortnight and is due to end on September 27.
Mr Albanese said the government should test the new policy plan, make sure the payments were targeted to those who needed the help most, and taper the end of the support over a long period.
“The key is to not have a hard snap back, the key is to be responsive to how the economy’s going over a period of time,” he said.
Mr Albanese was sceptical of claims that businesses should fold now rather than continue with JobKeeper and have to pay more entitlements to workers over the long-term.
He backed the case for a lower JobKeeper payment to casual workers who currently get more than they received in wages, an adjustment the government has signalled it will make.
Mr Albanese would not commit to a new rate for the JobSeeker allowance for the unemployed but said it should be higher than the old Newstart rate, which was $565.70 per fortnight.
The Greens have called on the government to continue its temporary boost to the JobSeeker payment, effectively doubling it to $1100 per fortnight, and have attacked Mr Albanese for not calling for the same change.
Greens leader Adam Bandt called Labor’s stance “the sell-out of the century” last month but Mr Albanese dismissed the Greens for making “utopian proposals” and noted they had not argued for a doubling of the old Newstart rate before the pandemic.
“It shouldn’t return to the old rate because it’s a matter of ensuring that people can live with some dignity and not be in a position whereby they’re potential for looking for work is undermined by the rate,” Mr Albanese said.
Asked if this meant the decision on JobSeeker should be generous, Mr Albanese said it was about having an “appropriate” level of income support that helped the individual look for work as well as helping the economy.
Mr Albanese said he was not receiving briefings from the government on the economy during the pandemic crisis and was instead seeing “mixed messages” about whether JobKeeper would be retained and JobSeeker increased.
“They have reverted to secrecy in terms of what is happening in the economy and that’s part of our concern, it’s one of the reasons why we’ve called for a statement.
“We will be constructive but we will also hold the government to account.”
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David Crowe is chief political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.