Fed Govt’s $130B wage subsidy set to support six million workers

The Federal Government has announced a historic wage subsidy package in response to COVID-19, with over six million workers set to receive a flat payment of $1500 per fortnight through their employer, before tax.

According to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the $130 billion package will provide a lifeline to businesses “feeling the first blows of the economic impact from the coronavirus.”

“This is about keeping the connection between the employer and the employee, and keeping people in their jobs even though the business they work for may go into hibernation and close down for six months,” he said.

“When the economy comes back, these businesses will be able to start again, and their workforce will be ready to go because they will remain attached to the business through our JobKeeper payment.”

The payment will be paid to employers, for up to six months, for each eligible employee that was on their books on 1 March 2020 and is retained or continues to be engaged by that employer.

The program will commence 30 March, with businesses set to see payments from the first week of May as monthly arrears from the Australian Taxation Office.

“Eligible employers will be those with annual turnover of less than $1 billion who self-assess a reduction in revenue of 30 per cent or more, since 1 March 2020 over a minimum one-month period,” Mr. Morrison said.

“Employers with an annual turnover of $1 billion or more would be required to demonstrate a reduction in revenue of 50 per cent or more to be eligible. Businesses subject to the Major Bank Levy will not be eligible.”

According to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Australia is going through one of the hardest economic times in its history.

“Businesses will close and people will lose their jobs. That is why we have doubled the welfare safety net. Australians know that their government has their back,” he said.

“This will keep Australian workers connected with their employer and provide hope and more certainty during these difficult and challenging times.”

The government will provide further updates on business cashflow support in coming days.

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Fed Govt announces second stimulus package worth $66B

The Federal Government has released the second stage of its plan to cushion the economic impacts of COVID-19, with a total of $189 billion injected into the economy by all arms of government.

According to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the Federal Government will provide up to $100,000 to eligible small and medium sized businesses and not-for-profits that employ people, with a minimum payment of $20,000.

“Under the enhanced scheme from the first package, employers will receive a payment equal to 100 per cent of their salary and wages withheld (up from 50 per cent), with the maximum payment being increased from $25,000 to $50,000,” he said.

Additionally, the minimum payment is being increased from $2,000 to $10,000, and will be available from 28 April.

By linking the payments to staff wage tax withholdings, Mr Morrison said businesses will be incentivised to hold on to more of their workers.

Furthermore, the Prime Minister highlighted that the payments are tax free, flowing automatically through the Australian Tax Office.

“We want to help businesses keep going as best they can and for as long as they can, or to pause instead of winding up their business. We want to ensure that when this crisis has passed, Australian businesses can bounce back,” Mr Morrison said.

“We know this will be temporary. That’s why all our actions are geared towards building a bridge, keeping more people in work, enhancing the safety net for those that aren’t and keeping businesses alive so they can get to the other side and stand up their workforce as quickly as possible. We know Australia’s more than three million small and medium businesses are the engine room of our economy. When they hurt, we all hurt.”

The measure is expected to benefit an estimated 690,000 businesses that employ over 7.8 million people. Small and medium business entities with aggregated annual turnovers under $50 million are eligible.

An additional payment will also be made from 28 July, with eligible entities receiving a payment equal to the total of all of the Boosting Cash Flow for Employers payments received.

“This measure is expected to cost $31.9 billion over the forward estimates period, including the value of the measure announced in the first stimulus package,” Mr Morrison said.

For regulatory protection and financial support, the Federal Government will also establish the Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme, designed to grant small and medium enterprises (SMEs) access to working capital.

Under the scheme, the government will guarantee 50 per cent of new loans issued by eligible lenders to SMEs.

“The government’s support will enhance lenders’ willingness and ability to provide credit to SMEs, with the scheme able to support $40 billion of lending to SMEs,” Mr Morrison said.

“The scheme will complement the announcement the government has made to cut red-tape to allow SMEs to get access to credit faster. It also complements announcements made by Australian banks to support small businesses with their existing loans.”

According to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, the $189 billion economic support package represents the equivalent of 9.7 per cent of Australia’s gross domestic product.

“The government is taking unprecedented action to strengthen the safety net available to Australians that are stood down or lose their jobs and increasing support for small businesses that do it tough over the next six months,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“These extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures.”

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$17.6B stimulus package increases asset write-off threshold

The Federal Government has announced cash flow assistance for businesses and household stimulus payments to counteract the social and economic challenges posed by Covid-19.

The $17.6 billion stimulus package is designed to keep small businesses afloat and employees in work, and will focus on supporting the most affected sectors. The government has stated that the measures are temporary, targeted and scalable.

The package includes $700 million to significantly increase the current instant asset write-off from $30,000 to $150,000 for businesses with a turnover of less than $500 million — up from $50 million.

The threshold applies on a per asset basis, so eligible businesses can immediately write-off multiple assets, until 30th June.

Expanding the threshold means an additional 5300 businesses will be able to access instant asset write-offs for the first time.

Other areas of support include cash flow payments of up to $25,000 for employers, 50 per cent accelerated depreciation for investments and a 50 per cent wage subsidy for apprentices and trainees.

The Australian Tax Office will also consider relief for certain tax obligations to eligible businesses, including deferring tax payments up to four months.

According to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Australia is approaching the economic challenge from a position of strength, with IMF and the OECD both forecasting Australia to grow faster than comparable countries including the UK, Canada, Japan, Germany and France.

“Our plan keeps businesses operating, supports jobs and provides a stimulus to households. The government has worked hard over the last six and a half years to return the budget to balance so we have the flexibility to respond to the serious economic challenges posed by the Coronavirus,” he said.

Mr Frydenberg added that given Australia’s strong economic and fiscal position, international credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s indicated the temporary stimulus would be unlikely to strain Australia’s creditworthiness.

“By acting decisively this package will put Australia in the strongest possible position to deal with the economic challenges we face and to make sure our economy bounces back even stronger,” he said.

While Prime Minister Scott Morrison cautioned that Australia is not immune to the global Coronavirus challenge, he said his government has taken steps to prepare for “this looming international economic crisis.”

“We’ve balanced the budget and managed our economy so we can now use this to protect the health, wellbeing and livelihoods of Australians,” he said.

“Our targeted stimulus package will focus on keeping Australians in jobs and keeping businesses in business so we can bounce back strongly.”

In a statement addressing members, the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association Australia said as an essential service, the waste and resource recovery sector is resilient.

“It is vitally important that we pull together and work with each other to ensure, as far as practicable, the continuation of our essential services to the community,” the statement reads.

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Federal Govt commits to dollar for dollar infrastructure investment

In a speech to the first ever National Plastics Summit in Canberra, Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged to match industry investment in recycling infrastructure dollar for dollar.

With Australia’s recycling facilities “under severe strain”, the Prime Minister said the Federal Government would invest in technological innovation to maximise the value of recycled products.

“I will have more to say on this closer to the up-coming budget, but the Commonwealth stands ready to work with the states, to co-invest in these critical infrastructure facilities, and with industry,” Mr Morrison said.

“We are working with state and territory governments to identify and unlock the critical upgrades that will lead to a step-change in their recycling capacity. And we will invest in these facilities with governments and with industry on a one-to-one-to-one basis.”

Furthermore, Mr Morrison announced plans to strengthen the Commonwealth Procurement Guideline, to ensure “every procurement undertaken by a Commonwealth agency considers environmental sustainability and the use of recycled content as a factor in determining value for money.”

In his address, Mr Morrison highlighted demand as central to long-term industry sustainability.

“We know that banning the export of waste plastics will keep more of the raw stock here for use, and lifting industry capacity will increase our ability to use these materials constructively. But to make the system really hum, we need to build the market,” he said.

“The global recycled plastics market is expected to grow at 7.9 per cent annually over the next decade, they are phenomenal figures, and be worth almost $67 billion in 2025. Industry is not blind to the incredible potential here.”

Of the summit, Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) CEO Pete Shmigel said the Federal Government was creating an unprecedented opportunity to reduce Australia’s plastics and greenhouse gas footprint.

“Prime Minister Morrison and his Ministerial colleagues have acted with total clarity and fast pace to put plastic waste minimisation near the top of their agenda,” he said.

“A summit that puts substance before stylistics is what we need to deal with the plastics problem, including our comparatively very low recycling rate of some 12 per cent and our lack of domestic recycling capacity.”

According to Mr Shmigel, improved plastic recycling is an affordable and accessible way to take practical and positive climate action.

“Support for putting recycled content plastic into irrigation pipes, channel lining and rainwater tanks would be a great way to assist drought-proofing while supporting Australian manufacturers,” he said.

“From all players involved in plastics management, from the government to brand owners to recyclers to the community, it’s time for real action not rhetoric, and that’s what the summit will be judged by.”

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Survey reveals waste industry investment push

Australia’s waste and recycling sector is set to back Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s $20 million funding with greater investment in research and technology, according to an Australasian Waste & Recycling Expo (AWRE) survey.

AWRE Event Manager Andrew Lawson said the survey found 85 per cent of respondents were planning investments of up to $500,000, while 12 per cent planned to invest more than $1million.

“Organisations cited research and development, technology and innovation, and product development as their major investment priorities over the next three years,” Mr Lawson said.

“While 49 per cent of respondents said they plan to increase staff over the next 12 months, 43 per cent said there would be no staff changes.”

Mr Lawson said the survey revealed an overarching sense of optimism about the future, despite the short-term challenges following the loss of export markets.

“Not surprisingly, there is still widespread concern about China’s National Sword policy, which dramatically cut Australia’s export of plastics, paper, metal and other waste materials to that market,” Mr Lawson said.

“However, far from throwing Australia’s waste and recycling industries into crisis, most believe this presents an opportunity to develop homegrown solutions to the growing problem of waste.”

According to Mr Lawson, 54 per cent of those surveyed said they were confident that new recycling technology, especially in energy generation, would transform the sector over the next one-to-three years.

“A majority of respondents said this far neither federal nor state initiatives had helped their business navigate the challenging new landscape, so the Prime Minister’s recent focus on these issues will be welcomed by the industry,” Mr Lawson said.

“Asked to nominate the main drivers for bringing about radical changes to Australia’s waste and recycling sector, respondents nominated government policy, technology and international trends – with some also identifying climate change as a major influence on public policy and community attitudes.”

AWRE will run 30-31 October at ICC Sydney in Darling Harbour.

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Scott Morrison visits New York MRF

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has highlighted his commitment to working collaboratively with state governments and industry to grow Australia’s recycling infrastructure capacity.

The statements were made following a tour of the Sims Metal Management materials recovery facility (MRF) in Brooklyn New York.

Commenting on the scale and scope of the MRF, Mr Morrison said he was excited to see similar technology employed in Australia.

“What we’re seeing here is truly exciting, and it is truly achievable because it is commercial, and it’s a partnership between the public and the private sectors,” Mr Morrison said.

“I mean, up to about two thirds of the revenue that is generated here doesn’t come from the contracts they have with governments, it comes from the products and the revenue streams that are generated by selling that outside of this facility.”

Mr Morrison said the facility’s success highlighted that improving the recycling sector was achievable through public and private sector partnerships.

“There are many environmental challenges that we face, and we need to take action on all of them, but this one for Australia, in a highly urbanised society, one where our waste is our responsibility, these are the commercial solutions that we need to have in place,” Mr Morrison said.

“And this will be a centrepiece of our focus, not only on our domestic environmental agenda, but on our international environmental agenda.”

Sims Metal Management CEO Alistair Field said it was important that contractual arrangements with city governments were mutually beneficial.

“We work very closely with New York City, and in the times that we have ebbs and flows and commodity cycles, there has to be an understanding of how our business can manage through those cycles,” Mr Field said.

“We have seen instances here in the US and throughout the world where that has not worked. So that’s a really key arrangement and our commercial arrangement with business and government.”

When asked by media why similar technology wasn’t being implemented in Australia, Mr Morrison said the scale of operations was challenging.

The Prime Minister added that he would work closely with state governments and the Commonwealth to build that scale.

“The discussion I had with the states at the last meeting of COAG was a very enthusiastic one. I think there’s a real willingness to identify the things that can facilitate this sort of commercial activity,” Mr Morrison said.

“One of the things we are looking at is the procurement practices of our road building agencies, to ensure that they are incorporating recycled asphalt into their procurement in the tens of billions of dollars that we are spending on roads.”

Mr Morrison said higher energy costs in Australia were also a challenge, however noted the potential inherent in waste to energy processes.

“One of the exciting things about waste management is that it can generate its own energy, and plants like this can potentially become fully energy self-sufficient, through recycling waste and converting it through gasification and other processes into energy,” Mr Morrison said.

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Scott Morrison visits Downer CDEnviro recycling facility

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews have visited Downer and CDEnviro’s processing facility and asphalt plant.

During the visit, the Federal Government announced it would commit $20 million to grow Australia’s domestic recycling industry.

Downer Reconomy General Manager Jim Appleby said while visiting the facility, Mr Morrison highlighted the government’s support for recycling infrastructure, research and development and positive purchasing.

“It’s amazing to hear the government talking about turbocharging the recycling sector,” Mr Appleby said.

“We are really proud of this facility and how it’s transforming the way Australia sees waste, so it was great to demonstrate this to our Prime Minister and our Industry, Science and Technology Minister.”

Mr Appleby said Mr Morrison highlighted Downer’s sustainable Reconophalt asphalt product as innovative recycling.

“The Reconomy facility in Rosehill Sydney features state-of-the-art street sweeping recycling technology from waste management solutions company CDEnviro,” Mr Appleby said.

“There’s recycling and then there’s revolutionary recycling, and we want to demonstrate that revolutionary recycling is what the world needs.”

The facility annually diverts more than 21,000 tonnes of waste from Sydney road construction projects.

“This material is then used in road construction and applied as asphalt to the road networks from where the material originated,” Mr Appleby said.

“Reconomy and CDEnviro share a purpose in championing sustainability and zero waste.”

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Applications open for $20M CRC grants

The Federal Government has committed $20 million to innovative projects designed to grow Australia’s domestic recycling industry.

Funds are available through round eight of the Cooperative Research Centre grants program, which opened 13 August.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the funding was part of government’s commitment to work with the states and establish a timetable to ban the export of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres.

“We are committed to protecting our nation’s environment while also building our capacity to turn recycling into products that people want and need,” Mr Morrison said.

“By engaging industry and researchers, we can make sure we’re seeing these changes introduced in a way that cuts costs for businesses and ultimately even creates jobs.”

Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews said the funding would help create Australian jobs, while also reducing global plastic pollution.

According to Ms Andrews, recent figures suggest only 12 per cent of the 103 kilograms of plastic waste generated per person in Australia is recycled each year.

“This funding will strengthen Australia’s recycling industry and help us achieve higher recycling rates,” Ms Andrews said.

“Boosting our onshore plastic recycling industry has the potential to create over three times as many jobs as exporting our plastic waste, ensuring a more sustainable and prosperous future.”

Applications close 24 September 2019.

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New parliamentary role created for waste reduction

Re-elected Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a new parliamentary position, Assistant Waste Reduction and Environmental Management Minister.

The role has been awarded to Queensland MP Trevor Evans, who was elected to the House of Representatives for Brisbane in 2016.

Mr Morrison has also announced his new cabinet, replacing Environment Minister Melissa Price with Sussan Ley.

Ms Price served as Environment Minister since August 2018, after previously serving as Assistant Minister to the portfolio.

Since being elected to parliament in 2001, Ms Ley has served as Health Minister, Education Minister, Sport Minister and most recently Regional Development Assistant Minister.

“Australians hold strong views on caring for our environment, both locally and globally, and I look forward to listening to the variety of perspectives and ideas that will be put forward,” Ms Ley said.

“As well as implementing our government’s strong range of policy initiatives in this portfolio.”

Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association (WMRR) CEO Gayle Sloan said the national industry body welcomed both appointments.

“WMRR congratulates both the minister and assistant minister, and looks forward to working with them on the commitments made by the government ahead of the election. Once the dust settles WMRR will be engaging with Minister Ley on how we can move forward,” Ms Sloan said.

“Effectively drawing that link between the environment and the economy so our essential waste and resource recovery industry maximises the opportunities at hand, to not only protect the environment, but grow local jobs and the economy.”

Australian Council of Recyclers CEO Peter Shmigel said the appointment of Sussan Ley and Trevor Evans represents unprecedented national leadership on recycling,

“This is the first time there’s direct ownership and accountability for recycling results at a ministerial level. The creation of the assistant minister role is a really welcome innovation by Prime Minister Scott Morrison,” Mr Shmigel said.

“The assistant minister helps guarantee the delivery of the government’s very substantive and useful recycling promises, including infrastructure funding and product stewardship progress.”

Roles within the Environment and Energy Department have also been re-shuffled, with responsibility for emissions reduction transferred from environment minister to energy minister.

Ms Price has been removed from cabinet all together and will serve as defence minister, while Angus Taylor remains in his role as energy minister.

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Election results for the waste industry

The Coalition, which promised $203 million to the waste and recycling sector, has been re-elected with a likely majority.

While votes are still being counted, the Coalition currently holds 75 of the 76 seats needed to win government – with ABC election analyst Antony Green predicting a final result of 77 seats.

The lead up to the 18 May election saw significant waste and recycling policy promises from Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“We will increase Australia’s recycling rates, tackle plastic waste and litter, accelerate work on new recycling schemes and continue action to halve food waste by 2030,” Mr Morrison said earlier in May.

While Melissa Price has been re-elected to the seat of Durack Western Australia, it is unclear whether she will return as Environment Minister.

The Coalition’s campaign promises include:

— $100 million to develop the Australian Recycling Investment Fund to support the manufacturing of lower emissions and energy-efficient recycled content products including recycled content plastics, paper and pulp.

— $20 million for a new Product Stewardship Investment Fund to accelerate work on new industry-led recycling schemes for batteries, electrical and electronic products, photovoltaic systems and plastic oil containers.

— $20 million to find new and innovative solutions to plastic recycling and waste through the Cooperative Research Centres Projects grants program.

— $16 million to support the Pacific Ocean Litter Project, working with neighbours in the Pacific to reduce plastics and other waste in the ocean.

— Up to $5.8 million for a range of initiatives through the Environment Restoration Fund to support Clean Up Australia, Keep Australia Beautiful, the Australian Council of Recycling, Planet Ark, the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation and OzHarvest.

— Up to $5 million through the Environment Restoration Fund for Conservation Volunteers Australia to coordinate community campaigns to clean up plastic waste in beaches and rivers.

— Continuing to work with state, territory and local governments on opportunities to get more recycled content into road construction – building on the funding provided to the Australian Road Research Board in the 2019-Budget.

The industry will now have to wait and see if the Coalition’s promises are put into action.

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