WITH the Morrison government insisting that JobKeeper and JobSeeker will end, after its existing extension, on Sunday, March 28, it would seem that the nation is heading for some degree of further economic downturn.
Since March last year, the government has promoted the spending of some $200 billion to keep the economy afloat during the pandemic.
Averaged out, this equates to $16 billion or so a month - a financial tap that the government says has helped keep 3.5 million people in work: a tap that will be turned off next month, if the government holds its nerve.
As the Hunter travel industry figures interviewed today by Penelope Green make clear, the loss of JobKeeper will leave them - and many, many more employers - with little choice but to make workers redundant.
If such a change in circumstances arrived without warning, it could fairly be described as catastrophic. But the government has given ample notice of its intentions, and people on both side of the employment equation have had a substantial time to adjust their expectations to suit.
Even so, there will still be angry people caught apparently unawares if JobKeeper ends when planned, especially if employers have not done the right thing by alerting impacted employees to the looming crunch.
At the same time, it is to be hoped that those whose jobs were kept afloat by JobKeeper will have taken what steps they can to find other work, and that companies in sectors hardest hit by the COVID downturn will be able to survive the initial shock.
It's an unpopular argument, but the Newcastle Herald has heard from employers finding it hard to attract workers, with JobSeeker on offer. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg referred to this on Tuesday when he said a departmental review of JobKeeper had created "perverse outcomes" in the form of labour shortages.
Australia has done well in keeping COVID at bay, but this was always going to come at an economic cost.
At the same time, turning off the stimulus taps will have a political cost, and right at a time when everyone in Canberra knows an election is looming.
The treasurer is arguing for what he think the country needs.
We will soon see if the prime minister thinks it's what Australia, and his government, wants.
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