More than 230,000 full-time students will get their welfare payments boosted by $550 a fortnight after being included in the coronavirus stimulus measures.
The Morrison Government made the last-minute decision to include students on youth allowance, Austudy and Abstudy in the package that passed parliament on Monday night.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann confirmed the coronavirus supplement would be extended to full-time students, but it was unclear whether international students would be eligible.
The government will no longer need legislation to make changes to welfare settings after passing an amendment to the package, giving the social services minister unprecedented powers.
Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi, who had pressed the government to extend the payment to students, said it was important to fight to protect them throughout this crisis.
“At a time when students are losing work and their studies are up in the air, they are absolutely deserved of the same support as anyone else,” she said.
In separate legislation, the government set aside a further $40 billion for urgent and unforeseen spending associated with the pandemic, which is likely to cause a recession.
Jobseeker, youth allowance, parenting, and special benefit payments will be boosted by $550 a fortnight.
There’ll also be two $750 payments for welfare recipients.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison addressed a scaled-down House of Representatives on Monday, invoking the spirit of the Diggers.
“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 World War II and defended Australia,” Mr. Morrison said.
“For many, young and old, 2020 will be the toughest year of our lives.”
Labor leader Anthony Albanese said most Australians only knew stories of war, hunger and financial strife from their grandparents.
“This is a time for national leadership, consistent messages, clear directions,” he said.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has hinted at the potential need for a third stimulus package down the track, as Australia faced its biggest challenge outside of wartime.
“We confront an enemy without a flag or a face and we are deploying every weapon in our arsenal to defeat it,” he told parliament.
“We will bounce back as a nation stronger than ever.”