Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt (left) and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison are reportedly in talks about further travel restrictions. Picture: Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images.
Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt (left) and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison are reportedly in talks about further travel restrictions. Picture: Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images.

PM tells bosses to back workers amid virus

SCOTT Morrison has urged big business to support workers during the coronavirus crisis or risk brand damage.

The prime minister said bosses would need staff on the other side of any economic slump which could stem from the disease's implications.

"I'd be encouraging employers to take a flexible and forward-leaning approach in supporting their employees during this process," Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

He said large businesses would face scrutiny over their actions during the year, which could be defined by coronavirus.

"Businesses spend a lot of time talking about the value and integrity of their brands," Mr Morrison said.

"Their brands will be defined in these months ahead."

Mr Morrison will on Thursday announce a stimulus package aimed at guiding Australia's economy through a potential recession.

The coalition is willing to forgo its much-vaunted budget surplus to pump money into the country.

"The government will be leaning heavily on its balance sheet that we've taken great care to put (the budget) in good order ... to be able to respond to this," Mr Morrison said.

The prime minister said large businesses were in a similar position, praising the big banks for passing on the most recent interest rate cut.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg met with bank CEOs on Wednesday to discuss the impact of the virus on the economy.

"Australia's banking system is strong and well capitalised to support households and businesses during this challenging time," he said.

Australian Banking Association chief Anna Bligh said banks were in the "best-ever shape" to face the challenge and had strong balance sheets.

"Banks stand ready to assist and if anyone is in need of assistance, they shouldn't wait to come forward," she said.

Banks agreed to share data with the government about economic and lending trends during the period of economic instability.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said Labor would support any necessary funding for the government's virus response.

"The cost of inaction will be far greater than the cost of action," he told reporters in Sydney.

Mr Albanese said workforce issues would have to be solved, particularly for health sector staff directly dealing with the virus.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions has demanded the government legislate for two weeks of paid leave for all workers to deal with the virus.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus also hit out at Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter for suggesting casual workers would have made provisions for staying home while sick or quarantined.

"It's absolutely outrageous and so out of touch that our government would say that casual workers should have been putting money aside for a pandemic," Ms McManus said.

"No one in the world or in Australia could prepare or know that a pandemic was coming."


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