The call by Byron Shire Council Mayor Simon Richardson for area specific JobKeeper extensions have been supported by Lismore City Council Mayor Vanessa Ekins, Ballina MP Tamara Smith (Green), Lismore MP Janelle Saffin (Labor) and Federal Richmond MP Justine Elliot (Labor).
Mayor Richardson made the call for more support in the region following the cancellation of the Bluesfest 2021 as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) following the visit of a hens party to Byron Bay that had members test positive for COVID-19. This was followed by one case of community transmission.
‘More than 1.5 million people will have their JobSeeker payment reduced because the government decided to withdraw the covid supplement. This is after acknowledging a year ago the payment was inadequate,’ said Mayor Ekins.
‘People who are already struggling will find it harder to feed their family, provide medication and pay critical bills. JobSeeker must be increased above the poverty line. These are families who keep our economy going by buying shoes for their children, visit the dentist, shop locally for food.
‘It is essential the government funds an increase to JobSeeker and supports small business with continued JobKeeper.’
This sentiment was echoed by Ms Smith who told The Echo that ‘I support the Mayor’s call but I think we are not the only regional area needing an extension of JobKeeper.
‘I’m calling for JobKeeper to be extended across the country and particularly because of the vulnerability of regional areas. With forecasts of 150,000 people being thrown into unemployment as a result of the cut to JobKeeper, with regional areas disproportionately affected, now is not the time to throw people to the wolves.’
Ms Saffin has told The Echo that she did not believe that JobKeeper should have ended so soon while her Federal counterpart Justine Elliot said ‘The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for our local economy and the recent cutting of JobKeeper only makes this situation worse’.
‘I’m continuing to call on the Morrison Government to urgently extend JobKeeper and to deliver a specific regional financial package to help our local businesses,’ Ms Elliot told The Echo.
‘At the end of March there were more than 4,200 businesses in the electorate of Richmond that were dependent on JobKeeper. This was keeping local workers in jobs and local businesses trading.
‘It was Labor who originally called for these wage subsidies when the pandemic first hit, and Labor Leader Anthony Albanese and I have consistently continued to call for support that’s tailored to specific areas.
‘The industries that were hardest hit in our region include those in retail, tourism, hospitality and the arts. Many of them were heavily dependent upon international tourism and were immediately impacted when the pandemic hit.
‘All the that Scott Morison has offered is a half-baked plan to provide half-price airfares, but even then it’s only for a select few areas.
‘The Ballina-Byron region, which has been hit hard by the lack of international tourists, has been completely forgotten, and this is totally unacceptable. Local jobs and businesses are suffering, and this is yet another blow from this government.
‘My number one priority is local jobs, so I’m continuing to call on the Morrison government to provide urgent financial support for our area. The Morrison Government must provide an extension to JobKeeper and targeted support to keep people in jobs and to keep our businesses going,’ Justine said.