Frydenberg fires back at Andrews: Open Melbourne now

 

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says Melbourne needs to be opened for business now, as the city heads into a nine week countdown to Christmas.

Following a war or words with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews earlier this week, Mr Frydenberg said it was crucial Victorians got back to work in a COVID-safe way sooner rather than later.

"We are just nine weeks from Christmas and this period and the lead up to Christmas is so important to the turnovers and profits of the retail sector and the hospitality sector as well as others," he said on Tuesday.

"In Victoria I'm just hoping they can get back to work in a COVID-safe way now that the daily numbers of cases is in to the single digits."

 

‘Just nine weeks from Christmas.’ Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
‘Just nine weeks from Christmas.’ Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

 

While Premier Daniel Andrews flagged on Tuesday the potential of easing of restrictions earlier than originally planned for November 1, Mr Frydenberg said "businesses need certainty".

"I do hope that certainty can be given by the Victorian Government sooner rather than later and that businesses are allowed to reopen," Mr Frydenberg said.

"It's great that people can go play tennis and golf and go down to the skate park but they also need their jobs back.

"It's important that people have that job security and that businesses are able to get on serving their customers."

Latest JobKeeper statistics showed since the beginning of September 1 about 800 Victorian businesses a day are signing up to JobKeeper payments.

 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg at Parliament House. Picture: Getty Images
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg at Parliament House. Picture: Getty Images

 

This makes up a majority of businesses leaning on the scheme for financial assistance - nationally about 1300 businesses are signing up a day.

Mr Frydenberg said by the year's end of all JobKeeper recipients about 60 per cent are expected to be from Victoria and he wants workers to get back on the tools.

"Importantly people who are in a job can keep a job and those without a job can get into one," he said.

Both the Treasurer and Victorian Premier took swipes at each other earlier this week after Mr Frydenberg said Mr Andrews' stubbornness was "unforgivable" on dragging out the easing of restrictions.

Premier Andrews hit back at Frydenberg at Monday's press conference and said he was simply playing politics during a pandemic.

"It's all about politics with this bloke, isn't it? That's all he does. He is not a leader, he is just a Liberal," he said.

But on Tuesday Mr Frydenberg laughed at the stoush and said it wasn't about the two going head to head, the focus should be on getting Victorians back out working.

"I made the point about the callous indifference made by the State Government to the loss of jobs and plight of small business and that is my view," he said.

"But it's not about Daniel Andrews and it's not about me, it's about the Victorian people.

"I was just giving voice to their concerns which need to be heard and need to be acted on by the Victorian Government."

While the rest of the country is getting back to work Mr Frydenberg said "Victoria's economic prospects are key to the nation's economic prospects," he said.

 

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has copped a string of criticism over his handling of the state’s COVID-19 crisis. Picture: Getty Images
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has copped a string of criticism over his handling of the state’s COVID-19 crisis. Picture: Getty Images

 

"There's no doubt what we have seen in Victoria has had an adverse impact on the budget bottom line and the livelihoods of my fellow Australians and I feel very strongly about this being a very proud Victoria," Mr Frydenberg said.

"Victoria represents 26 per cent of the nation's population yet (has) 40 per cent of the nation's effective unemployed.

"I know Victorian business want to open and they want to open now."

Unemployment in September in Victoria was 6.7 per cent but the effective unemployment rate was 14 per cent.

He said NSW was recording more daily cases recently than Victoria yet they were able to operate in a COVID-safe way.

As for a COVID-19 vaccine arriving in Australia Mr Frydenberg said this was still a work in progress despite the Federal Budget being dependent on one.

"There is an assumption in the budget that a vaccine will be available Australia-wide by the end of next year, that's a working assumption based on the best available health advice to us," he said.

"It's a very unique environment that we are working in and let's hope a vaccine is found because certainly the best and brightest minds around the world are working on discovering one."

sophie.elsworth@news.com.au

@sophieelsworth

Originally published as Frydenberg fires back at Andrews: Open Melbourne now


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