Financial reliance

By Jackson Russell

Almost 10,000 people in the McEwen electorate have accessed JobSeeker payments and 16,500 have received JobKeeper, as Victorian unemployment rates continue to rise.

There were more than 4000 JobKeeper applications from businesses in the McEwen electorate, which includes parts of Mitchell Shire, Macedon Ranges Shire and the City of Whittlesea, since April.

Member for McEwen Rob Mitchell told the Review if the Federal Government went ahead with axing JobKeeper payments in September, more than 16,500 workers in the electorate would be affected and almost $25 million would be taken out of the local economy.

“Nearly 900,000 businesses and organisations in Australia are currently relying on the JobKeeper wage subsidy,” he said.

“That’s around 3.3 million workers who rely on JobKeeper to pay their bills and put food on the table – and it’s all at risk if Scott Morrison cancels JobKeeper too early.

“It’s clear that millions of vulnerable workers and thousands of businesses that employ them will continue to need support for some time as Australia faces its first recession in almost three decades.”

Mr Mitchell said there had been a string of issues with the implementation and management of JobKeeper, with many businesses finding the application process overwhelming.

“The lag time between applying for and receiving funds meant many businesses – with their income stream coming to a screaming halt – were forced to go to their banks to get a loan to pay their staff until JobKeeper payments began weeks later,” he said.

“Many small businesses and sole traders just couldn’t afford to do it.”

Victoria’s unemployment figures have continued to rise, hitting 7.5 per cent in June, up from 6.9 per cent in May and 5.2 per cent in March when COVID-19 restrictions were first introduced.

Mr Mitchell said most industries had been impacted but the most affected sectors were childcare, retail, hospitality and healthcare.

“Often they’re casuals with insecure work, those in the gig economy, as well as the arts and entertainment sector which has been decimated,” he said.

“Small businesses are a major contributor to our local economy and they’ve really been hit.”

Mr Mitchell called on the Federal Government to permanently increase the base rate of JobSeeker once the coronavirus supplement ceases.

“Snapping back to the old rate of Newstart will be a disaster. It will push out-of-work Australians into poverty and threaten our nation’s economic recovery,” he said.

“The base rate of JobSeeker is so low that it presents a barrier to finding employment.

“Many on the payment are unable to afford internet bills or transport costs, which are essential to people looking for work, or attending job interviews.”

Of the 9833 people accessing JobSeeker in the McEwen electorate, Wallan has 1123, and Mernda 1208, which are among the towns with the highest figures behind Sunbury South, 1681. Doreen, 1046, Wollert, 1104, and Kilmore-Broadford, 877, are also above average.

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