The federal government now has the Liberal NSW government offside over economic support as the populous state grapples with a surge in COVID-19 cases and extends a debilitating Greater Sydney lockdown into a third week.
In a move which places more pressure on the Prime Minister Scott Morrison over the sluggish pace of Australia's vaccine rollout, the federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has denied a request from his state counterpart Dom Perrottet to reinstate the $90 billion JobKeeper wage subsidy program to support NSW workers.
It is a rerun of last month's request from the Victorian government which was also denied and comes as NSW records another 27 new locally acquired cases and big business heads meet with Mr Frydenberg and the head of the COVID-19 vaccine taskforce in a bid to accelerate the vaccination rollout.
"We are not bringing back JobKeeper," Mr Frydenberg stated on Wednesday, stressing that the initial emergency phase of the pandemic is over.
"That was an emergency support payment that we introduced at the height of the pandemic. We then extended it beyond the initial six months to 12 months. We brought in a tiered payment to take into account the number of hours that were worked."
The Treasurer said the Commonwealth will provide to eligible NSW workers the same temporary COVID-19 disaster payment ($325 - $500 payments) that was given to Victorian workers several weeks ago when the lockdown was extended beyond a week.
Earlier, the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian faced a testy media conference as she confirmed the extension of the lockdown for Greater Sydney.
It was put to her by a journalist that some business owners are on the brink and are contemplating suicide.
"Mental health for many of our citizens is a big issue at the moment, especially for businesses who are trying to stay afloat," she said. "And if we need to do more of course we will."
"I know how tough businesses are doing, but I also appreciate they would much prefer living in an environment where there wasn't a lockdown every second week, as opposed to what we're doing now."
The state's Health Minister blamed the vaccination rollout, although he conceded the federal government has faced a "very tough ask" in sourcing vaccines from around the world.
"The situation we're in now is largely because we haven't been able to get the vaccine that we need," Brad Hazzard said.
The shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said Mr Frydenberg was too fast to rule out support and too slow to roll out vaccines.
"If only Josh Frydenberg was as quick to introduce the vaccine around Australia as he was to rule out additional support for workers and small businesses doing it tough as a consequence of the Morrison government's incompetence," he said.
"We don't want to see the Morrison government make the same mistake in Sydney that it made in Melbourne which was too little, too late and too narrow."
Boosting the beleaguered rollout with the help of some of Australia's biggest companies was the focus of a virtual roundtable held on Wednesday with the Treasurer, the head of the COVID-19 vaccine taskforce Lieutenant-General John Frewen, Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly and chief executive officers of businesses including Coles, Commonwealth Bank, Telstra, Virgin and Qantas.
Mr Frydenberg called it a "new phase of our Covid response", while Lieutenant-General Frewen said he had reviewed the rollout and was drawing a "fresh line in the sand".
Proposals were put on the table for discussion such as vaccination incentives, workplace vaccination programs and offers to host Covid vaccine hubs.
But most ideas would require time - and a surge in vaccine doses - to become reality.
"There were many offers of premises for vaccinations being rolled out," Mr Frydenberg said.
"Including from Wesfarmers. That raised the opportunities that could be provided at the local Bunnings or Officeworks.
"There were extensive discussion about a whole range of issues."
The supply of the Pfizer vaccine is expected to open up over September, October and November.
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