The federal government has opened the door to provide cash grants for home renovations as part of a new round of economic stimulus aimed at shoring up the Australian construction sector.
The government also indicated it was working to help the struggling arts and entertainment sector, which had been asking for help for months because many workers did not get subsidized workers’ wages of $ 1,500 per week.
It is understood that support for home renovations is on the table – but the greater focus of the upcoming package is likely to be new construction and larger scale work.
The latest step follows the revelation of the six-month work guard program probably worth $ 60 billion less than originally thought, and comments by the Reserve Bank governor, Phil Lowe, that this scheme may need to be extended after the end of September because the economy might be at a “tipping point”.
Scott Morrison hinting that the next stimulus measures will soon be announced and will take the form of targeted support rather than economic intervention.
“Now, as time goes by, there are sectors that will bear more pain for longer, and what we have seen, there will be gaps in the economy and the construction of our homes,” the prime minister said Monday. “Housing construction will be one of the gaps that we must overcome.”
The government is considering a housing stimulus package that will expand grants to include home renovations as a way to help traders face an economic slowdown, according to a report in Australia.
Some restrictions or conditions might be placed around the type of renovation that could be covered by the scheme, the newspaper reported, but the government did not dispute the details.
Many groups have called for government support immediately after the pandemic occurred including measures to repair inefficient houses and buildings, including expanding the launch of solar panels and home batteries.
The Australian Social Services Council has urging governments across the country to spend $ 7 billion to build social housing for 30,000 families and individuals, with the dual goal of increasing post-crisis economic recovery and reducing homelessness.
Labor housing spokesman Jason Clare said the government must move quickly and must ensure that the program is “comprehensive”, including social housing construction and repairs.
“I have two words for the prime minister: hurry up,” Clare said. “We are talking about an industry that employs around 1 million Australians.”
Clare said many people “could hit the wall if the government did not take action to help save the industry now.”
Morrison said the government was looking for ways to help the residential building sector, because it predicted construction activities would decline in the last few months of 2020.
“Trade, interns, and others who work in the home construction sector … will feel very sick unless we can maintain sustainability in the home construction business,” he said.
The treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, who had spoken with the state about the housing package, refused to specify what conditions might be placed on the renovation project. But he said the government was focused on jobs and “meeting the demand gap in the latter half of the year”.
Frydenberg continued to open the door to include social housing development in the plan, saying the government would “have more to say in due course”.
Earlier on Monday, Morrison confirmed that the government had also “looked closely” at support for the entertainment industry. The prime minister told 2GB that he had held “some good discussions with people in the entertainment industry over the weekend about what we can do there more specifically”.
Morrison said one of the challenges for the sector was to get more moving capital because operators had to withdraw it so significantly during the crisis, and cited the film industry as a priority.
The government has rejected calls to expand eligibility to get workers’ wage subsidies since the bungle forecast was revealed, even though it had leaving the door open for further support to the worst affected sectors – like tourism – follow the reviews scheduled for June.
On Monday, Morrison announced that the government would speed up funding lines for the Sydney Metro – West Sydney Airport Railway Link so that construction could begin this year, “locking in thousands of jobs”.
He was joined at a media conference by NSW prime minister, Gladys Berejiklian, who said “mega-projects” would provide vital opportunities when the economy recovers from the impact of Covid-19.
The $ 3.5bn funding announced on Monday will be shared by the federal and state governments.
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