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JobKeeper laws will pass this week: Porter

Attorney-General Christian Porter is adamant the $130 billion JobKeeper payment legislation will be passed by the federal parliament when it holds an emergency session on Wednesday, however long it takes.

While there has been wide support for the Morrison government’s third and massive stimulus package, there has been some criticism of parts of the plan.

“We are pushing the $130 billion lifeboat out into the roughest economic seas Australia has ever had to see and people need to decide whether or not they want to help us push the boat out, but it is going out on Wednesday,” Porter told reporters in Canberra on Sunday.

“We’re not going to be arguing about timing and process and speculative possibilities in the weeks to come. This, and the changes necessary to make JobKeeper happen, are happening next Wednesday.”

Labor’s industrial relations spokesman Tony Burke said he wanted the legislation to be passed so the money gets to business and then into the pockets of workers.

“This system as announced by the government will be improved and can be approved,” Burke told reporters in Sydney.

Porter, who is also leader of the house and industrial relations minister, says the legislation is still being nutted out in his own department and Treasury.

But he insisted it would be shared before it goes before the House of Representatives.

The JobKeeper package provides $1500 a fortnight to workers through their employer in an attempt to prevent businesses closing down during the pandemic.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus said the government had made some “real good decisions” in terms of the wage supplement and the childcare subsidy.

But she was concerned about 1.1 million casual workers were missing out on the payment because they haven’t had 12 months continuous service, particularly in the arts and entertainment and construction industries.

She is also concerned by the government’s push to make changes to awards covering millions of workers made in the last couple of weeks through Fair Work Act legislation rather than through collaboration.

“We don’t want unintended consequences. We don’t want a situation where we change workers’ rights and leave it open for some employers to be opportunistic … some employers might abuse that,” McManus told ABC television’s Insider program.

Porter said he was listening to the ACTU on the matter of casual workers and was trying to come up with a definition for these cases.

“When you see the final draft you will see we are trying to be as inclusive and reasonable as possible.” Porter said.

He also said the legislation had a six-month cut off and would have to be re-submitted through another sitting of parliament if the pandemic drags on beyond that period.

Burke said he hoped Porter was listening to those concerns because there was a risk of “perverse outcomes” the way the scheme had been presented.

He wanted to see it as wage subsidy and not turn out to be a “balance sheet subsidy” for business and will be putting forward improvements in the parliament if necessary.

“Improvements that can be done to make sure people do not fall through the cracks,” he said.

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