The Guardian • Current Issue

EDITORIAL

Morrison plays favourites with the Commonwealth

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #1982

A hallmark of conservative rhetoric is to decry that the opposition is being opportunistic and politicising a sensitive situation.

Last week, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk stated that the state might not reopen unless hospitals receive more federal funding to cope with the expected rise in COVID-19 cases – given that NSW is winding down from its COVID-19 outbreak and Victoria is currently in the middle of theirs, this is a reasonable and responsible request. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, however, begs to differ and qualified Palaszczuk’s request as “hold[ing] the federal government to ransom and seek to extort from them money,” in the process likening Palaszczuk to a gangster.

And as Victoria continues to deal with its largest outbreak yet, the Morrison government isn’t signalling that it’ll help the Victorian economy. In order to keep the economy afloat, Victoria has several cost assistance programs. Businesses with payrolls of under $650,000 have been able to access payments of between $2800 and $8400 a week. As part of the licensed hospitality venue fund, certain cafés, restaurants, and bars have been accessing funds between $5000 and $20,000. There is also a small business COVID hardship fund worth more than $250 million, offering grants of up to $14,000 to small and medium-sized businesses. The federal government has been covering half of these costs but within weeks, as Victoria hits its vaccination targets, this assistance will end.

Asked about the ceasing assistance, Frydenberg’s responded that “[w]e can’t eliminate the virus, we need to learn to live with it in a COVID-safe way. Our economy has bounced back strongly before once restrictions are eased and is well-positioned to do so again when lockdowns lift.” He further added that it was simply up to the states to decide whether or not to assist businesses.

Two weeks ago, when the federal government has been assisting the states with relief packages, the Morrison government refused to step up when asked to help with Victoria’s construction package. Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas, who announced $196.6 million for the state’s construction industry, stated that the Andrews government will “step up and play our part in assisting this industry.” However, Pallas further added that it was “very, very unhappy the Commonwealth government broke with its practice of co-funding business support packages in Victoria and refused to contribute to this industry.” He later stated that Frydenberg was giving NSW “blatant favourable treatment.”

Pallas is right. We need only turn back three months to the beginning of Sydney’s COVID outbreak when Morrison unveiled a multi-billion dollar federal support package for businesses affected by the outbreak. At the time, Morrison stated, “The NSW outbreak has proved to be more severe, more dangerous.” But, as Victoria is experiencing numbers Sydney only saw several weeks ago, the Morrison government is giving Victoria the silent treatment. It is painfully obvious that the Morrison government is trying to make government difficult for Labor leaders. If anyone is politicising the virus for political gain it is the Coalition.

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