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Aussies on their own as JobKeeper ends

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(Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons)

As the Coalition's stimulus package draws to a close, some are already asking why a Cabinet that harboured a “big swinging dicks club" has such a small ongoing assistance package, writes Tarric Brooker.

AS THE CLOCK ticks down to the conclusion of JobKeeper and the JobSeeker supplement, Australians are waiting with bated breath to see what if any support will follow from the Morrison Government.

Speculation from some economists and political commentators suggested that some form of targeted extension of the JobKeeper program was a likely outcome.

Yet with just 12 days remaining until JobKeeper’s final conclusion, no extension of the program or similar targeted measure of support has emerged from the Morrison Government.

Instead the Coalition last week unveiled its $1.2 billion "Tourism Rescue Package", seemingly based around half price airfares to a very select group of destinations.

Former Qantas chief economist Dr Tony Webber predicted that out of the total $1.2 billion cost of the Tourism Rescue Package, just $72 million would actually be spent on subsidising airfares.

Meanwhile, on a recent episode of ABC’s Insiders, host David Speers stated that around $200 million would go toward keeping Qantas and Virgin airline staff on the books.

This all sounds great for the nation’s biggest airlines, Qantas and Virgin. But for the rest of the tourism industry, it’s unlikely to be anywhere near enough to prevent mass job losses in the coming months.

New Daily contributing editor Michael Pascoe called the rescue package a 'half-arsed half-price airfares stunt'.

With Pascoe later adding on Twitter that the package, “Smacks of a hasty announcement by someone in search of a distraction.”

As criticism of the Morrison Government’s lack of ongoing support for the economy continues to grow, Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Michael McCormack has thrown more fuel on the controversy fire.

Of the 13 locations targeted by the Morrison Government for assistance, just one is in Victoria. McCormack blamed Victoria's low representation in the Federal Government’s rescue package on the Andrews Government for its “snap lockdowns”.

With just 13 locations covered in all of Australia and only one in Western Australia, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria. Tourism operators and regional areas left out of the program are disappointed by the assistance package.

Yet despite the Morrison Government’s lack of further ongoing support for the economy, consumer and business confidence are both at decade highs.

Exactly why is still a matter of hotly contested debate, but one might imagine that the high levels of support since the crisis began has left Australians believing that the Morrison Government will ride to their rescue if they get into trouble.

However, as the Coalition Government’s default ideological nature reasserts itself in the form of the paltry $3.57 a day increase in JobSeeker and the quite limited tourism rescue package, it’s increasingly clear that in just a few weeks’ time many Australians will be more or less on their own.

Considering the extremely high levels of government intervention that has been supporting the economy in the past year, the impact of this reality on confidence would be concerning enough. With households and businesses not only expecting a relatively smooth recovery, but seemingly the greatest economic boom in a decade, it’s easy to see how millions of Australians could be left disappointed.

Despite the big headlines and the positive rhetoric from Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and the Prime Minister, for many Australians this happy tone simply doesn’t match up with the reality they are experiencing.

According to data from research firm Digital Finance Analytics, around one third of all Australian households have little to no savings to fall back on. With that number rising to 40%, in lockdown and virus impacted Victoria.

As JobKeeper and the JobSeeker supplement come to a conclusion, some more affluent Aussie households may be in for quite the economic boom as pandemic driven savings are spent amidst a reopening economy.

But for those in lower socio-economic areas where the pool of savings is far more limited or already exhausted on keeping household budgets and business balance sheets afloat, the reality is likely to be far more challenging.

As we head into the most uncertain future since the end of the World War II, the reality that Australians are once again more or less on their own will slowly dawn as the Morrison Government’s support begins to fade into memory.

How exactly the economy will fare from here is truly anyone’s guess with so many variables and the virus still wreaking havoc beyond our shores.

But as the Australian economy begins to stand on its own two feet once more, some are already asking why a Government that harboured a group called the “Big Swinging Dicks” has such a small ongoing assistance package.

Tarric Brooker is an IA columnist, freelance journalist and political commentator. You can follow Tarric on Twitter @AvidCommentator.

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