NSW has declared "happy hour" for pubs and restaurants with a further easing of virus restrictions. Image by James Gourley/AAP PHOTOS

politics

Border biff as JobKeeper costs slashed

2020-05-22 15:35:59

NSW has declared “happy hour” for pubs and restaurants as the federal government’s coronavirus response bill has been slashed by $60 billion.

Treasury and the tax office have revised the cost of the JobKeeper wage subsidy program down to $70 billion from $130 billion.

About 1000 businesses made “significant errors” when reporting the number of employees estimated to receive help.

The number of employees forecast to be assisted is now 3.5 million instead of 6.5 million.

About $8.1 billion has already been paid out through the $1500 per fortnight wage subsidy.

It comes as NSW announced up to 50 people will be able to dine in restaurants, pubs and cafes from June 1 – well above the limits in other states and territories.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said strict rules would be in place.

“The last thing we want to do is have to shut businesses down because they have not complied. And the last thing we want to do is go backwards,” she told reporters.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro said it would be a boost for regional businesses hit hard by drought, bushfire and the pandemic.

“It’s our happy hour – it’s time to wine and dine,” he said.

NSW reported its 50th COVID-19 death after an 80-year-old woman died in Concord Hospital. Her death brings the national toll to 101.

Victoria announced its year 11 and 12 students will begin exams in early November and have their results by the end of the year, as schools prepare to reopen next week.

Victoria recorded another 12 coronavirus infections on Friday, bringing the state’s total to 1593.

About 93 coronavirus cases in Victoria remain active, with 10 people in hospital, including five in intensive care.

In the latest sign of economic damage, Wesfarmers announced the closure or conversion of up to 167 Target outlets.

Target Country has been hardest hit by the decision, with 50 stores to be axed and 52 set to become small-format Kmart shops.

Wesfarmers will also convert 10 to 40 Targets to Kmarts and close between 10 and 25 of its large format outlets.

However, in a bid to counter the downturn the federal government announced local councils would share in $1.8 billion for road upgrades and local projects.

This included the bringing forward of $1.3 billion in assistance grants to local governments from next financial year and a further $500 million for roads and other infrastructure upgrades.

Debate continues to rage over state border restrictions, which Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said should be eased.

NSW will relax travel rules within the state from June 1, with regional travel allowed for interstate visitors and residents.

But apart from Victoria and the ACT, all other states and territories are maintaining a hardline approach, fearing a second wave of infections.