NSW Premier pushes for repayment of pandemic leave at national cabinet meeting

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet says he will push for a refund of COVID-19 leave payments for workers who lose income in isolation at a quick national cabinet meeting next week.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese convened the meeting after several leaders stepped forward and demanded the return of support to workers affected by COVID-19 isolation.

Australians are still required to isolate themselves for seven days if they are diagnosed with COVID-19, but the aid payment ended in early July.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet wants support for pandemic leave brought back. (Nine)

This means that many workers, including those who are at random events, are forced to face a week with no income, in the midst of an ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

Albanese has stood by the federal timetable to put an end to pandemic leave payments, though he has admitted it will have an impact on workers.

The prime minister says it was a decision “inherited” from his predecessor, but Perrottet issued a veiled reprimand of that position today.

“There is not a single time in the pandemic where we have put and left policies in place,” the prime minister said.

He said the decision should be made with input from economic, health and humanitarian views and with governments in unity.

“COVID-19 is not over. Governments are here to help our people. I will continue to strongly advocate for it and I will do so in an appropriate framework in the National Cabinet,” he said.

“I think it’s unfair that when the state imposes health orders on people that restrict their freedom and capacity to work, that the government does not provide financial support.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will meet with the National Cabinet next week. (Rhett Wyman)

But he admitted that the budgetary situation at the federal and state levels was “clearly under pressure”.

However, Perrottet has said he is willing to have discussions on funding pandemic leave payments “50-50” with the federal government.

“People are making significant sacrifices by following these health orders and isolating themselves for seven days,” he said.

“If the state imposes these orders, the state should also be ready to help people through.”

It is understood that the worsening COVID-19 crisis around the country will also be in focus at Monday’s meeting, after around 47,000 cases were registered yesterday.

Health Secretary Mark Butler has stood by the prime minister’s defense, saying payments could not continue indefinitely.

“At some point, though, emergency payments will have to come to an end,” he said.

“They were supposed to end at the end of June, and we are following up on the decision that was made many months ago.

“However, I do not want to pretend that it will not have an impact on society.”

The United Workers Union has also pushed for the reinstatement of pandemic holiday pay.

“Removing paid pandemic leave in the midst of a pandemic is short-sighted and contrary to the severity of the COVID infection rates we see across Australia,” said Secretary Tim Kennedy.

“Leave should be extended until we have come out of the worst of the terrible winter wave at an absolute minimum.”

Leaders meet on Monday after Albanians return from the Pacific Islands Forum in Fiji.

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