Call to kick protesters off JobSeeker
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has opened the door to stripping welfare payments from activists attending illegal protests describing the idea as "a conversation worth having".
As thousands of protesters plan to again flout public health orders and attend Black Lives Matters protests and refugee protests, Senator Cormann has warned they are putting lives at risk.
Asked if they should lose the $550 a week JobSeeker payment if they attend the protests, Senator Cormann said it was a debate he was open to having with colleagues.
"That is a conversation that would be worthwhile having, but right now, it is up to the states to impose the rules that they inflict on everybody else, for good reasons, that Australians comply with in order to help us suppress the spread of this virus and in order to minimise the risk of a second wave,'' he told Sky News.
"I don't have personal views on these matters. We have a Government position. People should comply with the rules and the rules should be applied to all equally and to the extent that people breach the rules, then the penalties that are available should be applied."
The Morrison Government doubled the JobSeeker payments to $550 in response to the COVID-19 crisis but has flagged it will revert to a lesser amount in October.
Senator Cormann also confirmed some Liberal MPs were calling for the $275 a week base rate of JobSeeker to be increased but linked to the use of a welfare card that banned spending on gambling.
"I have seen that suggestion made by a valued friend and colleague, Rowan Ramsey,'' he said.
"We are now having conversations on how we can most appropriately transition out of the elevated levels of temporary support, including through the enhanced JobSeeker program. The COVID supplement, which effectively doubles the JobSeeker payment, is there for a six-month period and it is due to come to an end towards the end of September."
After the diagnosis of a Black Live Matters protester with COVID-19, Senator Cormann said the risks were real.
"Going to these sorts of events puts lives and livelihoods at risk. We are here fighting to avoid a second wave of infections, which would literally kill people, which would literally kill jobs,'' he said.
Senator Cormann said it wasn't fair if families could not attend funerals for loved ones but protesters faced no penalties for attending mass rallies.
"If it is good enough for people to be prevented from going to funerals, to church, to sporting events, to all sorts of things, restaurants, then the rules should apply to everyone else,'' he said.
"It makes absolutely no sense to have tens of thousands of people gather with potentially infected people among them, spreading the risk of the virus, putting the community at an unacceptable, unnecessary and an entirely avoidable risk.
"Of course. They should be charged if that is what the rules provide in any particular circumstance."
The Finance Minister's suggestion comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he wanted protesters charged if they ignored coronavirus gathering bans.
Mr Morrison told 3AW radio's Neil Mitchell there was "no doubt" the Government would have been easing COVID-19 restrictions sooner if not for last weekend's protests.
"I really do think they should (be charged)," Mr Morrison said.
"The issues of last weekend were very difficult, but I think people carrying it on now, it's not about that. It's about political people pushing a whole lot of other barrows now, and it puts others lives and livelihoods at risk.
"Millions of quiet Australians have done the right thing and they didn't seem to be that concerned about their health, or their businesses, or their jobs.
"People who would turn up to a rally this weekend would be showing great disrespect to their neighbours. It's a free country and we have our liberties but the price of that liberty is exercising it responsibly."
Organisers of a Sydney rally scheduled for tomorrow are planning for the gathering to go ahead despite the event being deemed illegal by the NSW Supreme Court.
Refugee advocates are also planning to take to Melbourne streets despite warnings from authorities fearful of a virus outbreak and threats of fines.
Originally published as Call to kick protesters off JobSeeker