Opposition calls for COVID-19 leave payments to be reinstated, as pressure mounts on Albanese

The Acting Opposition Leader says pandemic leave payments ended by her government must be reinstated, as rising COVID-19 case numbers put pressure on the Prime Minister not to end financial supports.

The former government set an end date of June 30 for the $750 payments, which were available to people forced to isolate or care for someone with COVID-19.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has resisted mounting calls from health groups, unions and state leaders to reinstate them.

The government is also wrapping up free rapid antigen testing and defence support in aged care.

Mr Albanese said the concerns would be discussed at a national cabinet meeting convened for Monday.

“We inherited these decisions, but we also inherited a trillion dollars of debt,” Mr Albanese said.

“That’s something that was not our responsibility.”

Acting Opposition Leader Sussan Ley told Channel Nine the payment that her government ended was a “lifeline” for casual workers.

“Anthony Albanese said he would take responsibility and he would leave no one behind. He’s failed both those tests,” Ms Ley said.

“[The leave payment] is there for people who just don’t have finances to fall back on, and as we walked to the studio today, past the people who clean the train stations, who set up the coffee shops, $750 is a lifeline for them. 

Ms Ley said the former government decided to end the payment more than a year ago, before the existence of the Omicron variant, and circumstances had changed.

Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones said some state governments were not as burdened with debt and did not rule out having payments co-funded by states and the Commonwealth.

“Many of the state leaders who are calling on us to do more have actually got less debt and healthier balance sheets and healthier budgets,” he said.

“Some of them are approaching a surplus, something that the Commonwealth won’t be doing any time in the next couple of years.”

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