Canberra: The Australian Parliament on Thursday passed the government's wage subsidy scheme, deemed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison as "the biggest economic lifeline" in the country's history, as a response to deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
MPs and Senators re-convened in Canberra for a single day on Wednesday to legislate the A$130 billion ($81 billion) JobKeeper package, reports Xinhua news agency.
Under the scheme, an estimated six million eligible workers who have had their work status affected by the COVID-19 pandemic will receive fortnightly payments of A$1,500 for about six months.
Before the bill was passed by Parliament early Thursday, Prime Minister Morrison declared that "our nation's sovereignty is put at risk and we must respond" when addressing parliament.
"Today we act to protect our nation's sovereignty. When Australian lives and livelihoods are threatened, when they are under attack, our nation's sovereignty is put at risk and we must respond. As a Government, as a Parliament, as a nation, together.
"It will be a fight. It will be a fight we will win. But it won't be a fight without costs, or without loss. Protecting our sovereignty has always come at a great cost, regardless of what form that threat takes. And today will be no different."
The JobKeeper package was unveiled by Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on March 30 as the centrepiece of their economic response to COVID-19, when they said the payment would bring the government's total economic support for the economy to A$320 billion, or 16.4 per cent of the country's GDP.
It was designed to prevent mass job losses and economic devastation amid widespread forced closures of non-essential businesses.
The scheme will be administered by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), with payments to be funnelled to employers who will then be obliged to pass them on to employees.
As of Wednesday more than 700,000 businesses had registered for the scheme through the ATO.
Frydenberg said on Wednesday that the passage of the legislation was "one of the most important days in this history of the Australian Parliament".
Our actions today will keep families together, businesses in business and preserve the productive capacity of the economy. This is vital as we prepare to meet the challenges of today and position ourselves for the recovery tomorrow," he said.
"This is the single biggest rescue package that our nation has ever seen. This new A$1,500 a fortnight payment will provide job security at a time when it is needed most. This is a level of support like this country has never, ever seen before."
The country has so far reported 6,010 coronavirus cases, with 50 deaths.