Parliament has approved the federal government’s $130bn JobKeeper legislation.

The $1500-per-fortnight (before tax) wage subsidy will benefit up to six million Australians and permanent residents but does not extend to those on temporary visas or casuals who have been with their employers for less than 12 months. Payments will begin rolling out in May, however they will be backdated to 30 March.

Labor had pushed for the inclusion of temporary visa holders and a further 1.1 million casuals who have been with their employer for less than 12 months. The proposed amendments were rejected by the Morrison government, however Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was granted the power to vary eligibility at his discretion.

The Opposition leader Anthony Albanese and Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus have said they will continue the campaign to extend eligibility for the JobKeeper payments.

More than 730,000 businesses have already registered for the benefit through the Australian Tax Office. The scheme is designed to keep workers in employment, maintaining the relationship between employer and employee.

Combined with two previous stimulus packages, the government’s spending now totals $320bn, or 16.4 percent of Australia’s GDP.

“This package is costed at $130bn dollars, the most significant package that has been brought to this parliament to support Australian jobs,” said Mr Frydenberg in parliament on Wednesday 8 March.

Eligible businesses can register for the JobKeeper wage subsidy online.

Cautious optimism urged

Businesses are being urged to remain cautious about cash flow until their applications have been processed — while many hospitality operators will be eligible, it’s not a given.

Employers will also need to make sure they can cover the gap between now and the time payments begin to flow down in May.

“Importantly, JobKeeper won’t suit all businesses,” says Ed Mallett, managing director of Employsure. “It suits businesses that are still operating and have the need for staff who are paid at least $1500 a fortnight. It less suits businesses in some form of shutdown, or who typically pay their staff significantly less than the $1500 threshold.”

Industry leaders disappointed at exclusion of temporary visa holders

While the package will provide much needed relief for many, a significant portion of the hospitality industry will miss out, with temporary visa holders remaining ineligible despite a push from Labor, unions and the hospitality industry.

Among those to emphasise the critical role of international workers is Fink Group’s Peter Gilmore, who asked the government to include overseas nationals in support packages.

Signature Hospitality Group’s CEO James Sinclair told Hospitality there were both humanitarian and economic cases for extending the JobKeeper payments to those on skilled temporary visas, while Melbourne restaurateur Jessi Singh said it was unfair to ask visa holders to “go home” given the current conditions in many countries.

In lieu of government assisstance, operators including Fink Group, Signature Hospitality Group and Singh, as well as fellow Melbourne restaurateur Charlie Carrington are developing their own initiatives to support temporary visa holders.

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