Anthony Albanese has doubled down on his claim that sick casuals don’t need leave payments as he faces his first major test as Prime Minister.
Anthony Albanese says workers don’t need pandemic leave because employers are already allowing them to work from home while sick.
The Prime Minister on Friday doubled down on his insistence that the government could not reinstate a $750 payment to casuals without sick leave.
“The idea that no one is getting any sick leave at the moment, it’s just not the case,” he told reporters in Fiji.
“Good employers are recognising that people are continuing to work from home while they have Covid and are receiving, therefore, payments through that.”
The furore over the government’s decision to axe the payments is the Prime Minister’s first major test since the May election.
Mr Albanese will return to Australia later on Friday after spending the last three days in Suva for the Pacific Islands Forum.
He returns to fury from the unions, state leaders, the opposition and members of his won backbench who have called the decision to axe the sick leave payment into question.
Labor MPs Mike Freelander and Michelle Ananda-Rajah, both doctors, on Thursday said the payments should be extended.
ACTU secretary Sally McManus said she hoped Mr Albanese would back down.
“When you have a whole lot of people sick, the economy is sick … You can’t on the one hand say people have to stay at home and on the other hand say you are not going to get paid and you are left with nothing,” she told Nine.
“It is abandoning people and not the Australian way, we have to fix it.”
On Friday, social media users were quick to point out the hypocrisy in the Prime Minister’s comments, given many casual workers who hold jobs in retail and hospitality could not just work from home.
“Doing my previous jobs of forklift driver, and longshore/warehousing from home as a casual. Yeah, makes nothing but sense,” one tweeted.
“Trying to buy a coffee but the barista is sick so they’re working from home,” another joked.
Meanwhile, opposition health spokeswoman Anne Ruston called on the government to explain why it was abandoning workers.
“What we’re questioning is the timing of the removal of these Covid supports as we’re just heading into what the medical experts are saying is a very dangerous wave,” she told Radio National.
“Is the decision being made by the government based on the health advice?”
Health Minister Mark Butler confirmed the government had received no health advice over whether the scheme should be continued.
“That was not included in (the health) advice. It wasn’t a matter on which they provided advice,” Mr Butler told ABC’s RN.
A snap national cabinet meeting will be held on Monday to discuss how to best deal with the surge of Covid cases.
Social media users react to the PM’s comment.
Earlier this week, Mr Butler warned that millions of Australians could catch the virus in the coming weeks.
Hospitals and healthcare workers across the country are struggling under the immense pressure of increased admissions amid the Covid-19 wave.
There are more than 4500 Australians in hospital receiving treatment, with 139 in ICU beds.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was the first to publicly call for the meeting amid the “mixed messages” from the government.
“The country just wants to know how this wave is going,” she said on Thursday.