The federal opposition has seized on another snap COVID-19 lockdown in Brisbane, citing it as another reason the JobKeeper wage subsidy should not have been withdrawn prematurely.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the Greater Brisbane area would be locked down for three days from 5pm on Monday after a coronavirus cluster grew to seven cases and sparking fears of "significant" community transmission.
It came just 24 hours after JobKeeper officially ended, a support measure that helped steer the economy through last year's recession.
"Under Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg, the pandemic support ends before the pandemic does," shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers told reporters in Cairns shortly after Ms Palaszczuk announced the lockdown.
"Thousands of workers and their employers in local communities who've done their best to cling on during this pandemic have been abandoned today."
The Australian Industry Group said some of its members are hopeful the three-day lockdown will be enough to get on top of the outbreak, but others look to a possible extension with "great trepidation".
"The lockdown couldn't have come at a worse time for businesses facing their first day without JobKeeper," Queensland head of the Ai Group Rebecca Andrews said in a statement.
"Many of these businesses in sectors such as hospitality and accommodation now fear the hoped-for boost to business from the Easter break may be lost."
Economists will be watching developments in the labour market following the end of JobKeeper, which Treasury estimates could leave up to 150,000 people without a job.
There is great uncertainty as to whether the economic rebound from recession so far has enough momentum to absorb these potential job losses, or whether it will bring the steady decline in the jobless rate to an abrupt halt.
"Labour market indicators will be potentially hot property for the local market in coming weeks and months as the economy traverses the end of JobKeeper," National Australia Bank economists said in a note to clients.
About one million people were still on JobKeeper as of January, after 2.7 million people and 680,000 businesses had transited off the subsidy since it was introduced a year ago at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg insists the government will announce more support measures where necessary.
"That has been our track record to date and that is what we will do into the future," he told Sky News.
"We will continue to monitor what is occurring across the economy very closely and then we'll respond."
The end of JobKeeper comes just days ahead of the end of the coronavirus supplement for people on the JobSeeker dole payment.
While the base for this benefit has seen a tiny increase to $44 a day from $40, it means someone coming off JobKeeper without work will see their support shrink from $500 a week to just over $300 a week on JobSeeker.
Social Services Minister Anne Ruston does not agree that it would leave people below the poverty line.
She said there are many other things that are in place that could help people, whether it be assisting them with their rent and making sure they get the full amount of tax benefit.
"We don't want people to be on unemployment benefits," Senator Ruston told ABC radio.
"This will be a business-led recovery and the most important thing we can do as a government is to make sure those businesses are strong, so they are able to create the jobs, so that people don't stay on payments."
Australian Associated Press
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