Pandemic leave payments extended

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has confirmed pandemic leave disaster payments will be extended at current rates beyond September 30.

Mr Albanese said the move was agreed upon by first ministers and premiers at a meeting of National Cabinet.

“The payment will remain available for as long as mandatory isolation periods are applied by all states and territories,” he said.

“The principle essentially agreed to by all first ministers is that while the Government requires mandated isolation, the Government has a responsibility to provide support during that period for the appropriate period, which is designated currently, of course, at five days.

“We remain obviously of the view that if people are sick, whether from COVID or from other health issues, they should not be at work, and that is important.”

Since the start of the pandemic, the leave payments have cost taxpayers more than $2.2 billion, including $320 million since the support was extended in July.

Before extending the support under public pressure, the government had said the cost on the budget was too high.

However, on Tuesday, Albanese said he did not believe the measure was costing too much.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said it was unlikely his state could continue the measure without financial support from the federal government.

“While these matters are principally … for the Commonwealth, we have arrangements in place now and I think the best we’ll do is see them extended on the basis that they’re currently being paid,” Andrews told reporters in Melbourne.