Treasury officials estimate the ongoing Sydney lockdown is costing the national economy $700 million a week.
Mr Frydenberg revealed the estimate in an interview with 7.30’s Laura Tingle after the federal government unveiled major changes to its economic supports for areas considered “hotspots” under lockdown.
The changes will see the government contribute more in both household and business support than it did in the previous Melbourne outbreak in late May and early June — which was effectively the first test for businesses facing lockdowns without the protection of the federal JobKeeper wage subsidy.
Victorian leaders complained that they had asked the federal government for additional support but the answer had been “no”. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at the time that other states such as Queensland and Western Australia “took on” the economic costs when they had “decided” to enact lockdowns.
But in early June as the Melbourne lockdown extended beyond its initial week, the federal government softened its stance and brought in $500 payments for individuals who had lost work. Those payments were to be consistently applied in future COVID “hotspots”, as defined by the Commonwealth.
This year’s Budget made assumptions that there would be ongoing outbreaks and lockdowns throughout 2021, but “not of the lengthy duration we’re now seeing in NSW,” Mr Frydenberg said.
Asked if NSW should also take the “blame” for this lockdown, Mr Frydenberg said the infection of an unvaccinated, unmasked limousine driver working around Sydney Airport “should not have happened”.
‘Bots and Trots’
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said his government was forced to “shame” federal counterparts into offering support during Melbourne’s outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant earlier this year.
Mr Andrews said he did not begrudge NSW citizens getting help but Victorians were “rightly sick and tired of having to beg for every scrap of support from the federal government”.
“It shouldn’t take a crisis in Sydney for the Prime Minister to take action but we are seeing the same double standard time and time again,” a statement released on Tuesday evening said, quoting a Victorian government spokesperson.
The changes to the federal government’s economic safety net will not only apply to New South Wales but to any other state that enters a lockdown that meets the same criteria.
Mr Frydenberg hit back at the accusation of double standards, saying people were sick of the “whingeing” from Mr Andrews.
He claimed that any time anyone challenged the Victorian Premier it caused a torrent of abuse online from “bots and Trots” loyal to Mr Andrews, referencing the Trotskyist branch of Marxist political theory.
He said the “economy was in a very different position” now compared with last year, which meant a return of an economy-wide structure like JobKeeper was unnecessary.
Instead, more “targeted” supports to hotspot zones were appropriate.