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Australia to spend more on jobs in budget based on COVID-19 vaccine

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The Australian government said on Sunday it will earmark an additional A$1.2 billion ($859 million) in wage subsidies in the 2020/21 budget and that its frameworks assume that there will be a novel coronavirus vaccine next year.

FILE PHOTO: Commuters wait on a train platform in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge at Circular Quay as the state of New South Wales continues to report relatively low numbers for new daily cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Sydney, Australia, September 7, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

In the run up to the Oct. 6 budget, which is set to forecast a record deficit of about A$200 billion, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said a vaccine was a factor in his fiscal considerations.

“The budget takes into account the possibility that is the case,” Frydenberg said when asked in a Sky News television interview whether the budget would be based on an assumption that a vaccine would be ready.

“We have worked hard with international counterparts to secure the vaccine for Australia.”

Australia’s A$2 trillion economy suffered its deepest slump on record in the June quarter as coronavirus curbs crippled business activity, and the government has sought to soften the blow this year with A$314 billion of fiscal stimulus.

The government plans to roll out a coronavirus vaccine cost-free to citizens, expecting its first batches possibly in January.

Earlier on Sunday, the government said the budget would include a wage subsidy aimed at creating up to 100,000 apprenticeships.

“We want to continue to recover what has been lost and get young people into work,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison was cited as saying in a press release announcing the A$1.2 billion scheme.

While the overall jobless rate fell to 6.8% in August, unemployment for those aged 15 to 24 hovered near 20%.

“This budget is all about jobs,” Frydenberg said in a separate interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) public television.

In an interview with Channel Nine television Frydenberg reiterated that the budget would include the bringing forward of already legislated income tax cuts.

Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Robert Birsel

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