Australian passes "most significant" economic support package since war to ease COVID-19 tension

CANBERRA -- Australia's Parliament has voted to pass about 84 billion Australian dollars (about 49 billion U.S. dollars) in economic stimulus measures on Monday in response to the outbreak of coronavirus.

"The measures that have been passed by the parliament today represent the most significant support for the Australian economy and community since the war," Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said.

A bare minimum number of Members of Parliament (MPs) and Senators convened in Canberra for a single day on Monday to vote on the government's stimulus packages before the parliament was suspended until August.

In a late-night session, the Opposition Labor Party joined forces with the governing Coalition to pass the two packages, which are worth 17.6 billion Australian dollars (10.2 billion U.S. dollars) and 66 billion dollars (38.5 billion U.S. dollars) respectively.

They also agreed to set aside an extra 40 billion dollars (23.3 billion U.S. dollars) for urgent unforeseen spending associated with the pandemic.

"There is much to do for this country in the weeks and months ahead, but working together, we can support the Australian community at their moment of need," said Frydenberg.

"We know that the economic situation has deteriorated, as every day passes. And we know that the economic shock from the coronavirus and its impact will be deeper, will be wider and will be longer than first thought.

"But tonight, the Australian Parliament has acted in the best interests of the casuals and the sole traders and the retirees and those on income support and the Australian students."

Under the stimulus measures, eligible small and medium sized businesses, and not-for-profits (including charities) that employ people, will receive payments of up to 100,000 Australian dollars (58,385 U.S. dollars) in an attempt to prevent losses.

Addressing the House of Representatives, the lower house of Parliament, Prime Minister (PM) Scott Morrison said on Monday morning that "for many, young and old, 2020 will be the toughest year of our lives," invoking the spirit of Australians who fought in World War II.

"So we summon the spirit of the Anzacs, of our Great Depression generation, of those who built the Snowy. Of those who won the great peace of the Second World War and defended Australia," he said.

"That is our legacy that we draw on at this time. We also know the actions that we can take. The care, compassion and respect we must show from one, to one another. While some must self-isolate, and they must, and we all must keep a healthy distance between us.

"In the months ahead, we will face more issues that none of us now, can imagine."

The legislation gives the government flexibility to respond to COVID-19 as new challenges emerge without needing further legislation.

The parliament will not sit again until August 11 in order to prevent the spread of the virus among politicians.

The federal budget for financial year 2020/21, which Frydenberg was due to deliver in May, has been postponed until Oct. 6.

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