Chalmers defends COVID payment delay

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Reinstating COVID-19 isolation payments was a necessary move in the wake of rising cases despite criticism the government was slow in doing so, according to Treasurer Jim Chalmers.

With infections continuing to increase, a decision was made on Saturday to restore the leave pay measure until the end of September.

The $750 for workers needing to isolate due to being COVID positive ran out at the end of June but was brought back following pressure on the government.

The bill for the $780 million scheme will be split between the Commonwealth and states and territories.

While acting Opposition Leader Sussan Ley said the government had been dragged "kicking and screaming" to reinstate the payments, Mr Chalmers described the criticism as ridiculous.

"It was her government a little over eight weeks ago that designed this program to end at the end of June," he told Sky News on Sunday.

"We will get on with our work, working with the states and territories, led by premiers and chief ministers of both persuasions."

The treasurer said there would be an increase in COVID cases across the country in coming weeks.

It comes as Victoria's public hospitals get an extra 400 health workers to address rising hospitalisations and staff absences, as part of a $162 million package.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has not indicated if the payments will go beyond the September 30 cut off.

The government had been saying they would not be brought back due to budget pressures.

Energy Minister Chris Bowen says advice indicating the COVID wave has worsened is what led to the payments returning.

"This wasn't about public outcry, this was about looking at evidence," he told the Nine Network.

"The prime minister gets medical advice from the chief medical officer all the time, as does the health minister ... but clearly this outbreak has gotten worse and worse, the prime minister has acted, I think, pretty swiftly."

Ms Ley said the reaction to the fresh wave of cases was too late.

"We welcome the reinstatement of the payments but this is two weeks after they stopped," she said.

"Anthony Albanese needs to apologise to every casual worker who suffered stress as a result of this flip-flopping."

Nationals leader David Littleproud said restoring the leave pay was the right move but he hit out at the government for deflecting responsibility back to the coalition.

"The prime minister didn't act quickly enough in terms of letting this payment cease, it wasn't the former government's responsibility, it was theirs," he told Nine.

"These payments are critical to those people having trouble putting bread and butter on their table."

Australia recorded more than 78,000 new virus cases over the weekend along with 107 deaths. There are in excess of 337,000 active cases nationwide and more than 4700 people in hospital.


NSW: 10,198 cases, 12 deaths, 2057 in hospital with 63 in ICU

Victoria: 9630 cases, 16 deaths, 760 in hospital with 37 in ICU

Queensland: 5989 cases, no deaths, 876 in hospital with 20 in ICU

WA: 5933 cases, no deaths, 377 in hospital with 17 in ICU

SA: 3358 cases, one death, 288 in hospital with 10 in ICU

NT: 463 cases, no deaths, 42 in hospital with one in ICU

ACT: 956 cases, no deaths, 167 in hospital with six in ICU

Tasmania: 1410 cases, one death, 36 in hospital with none in ICU.

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