Tasmania has unveiled fresh support measures for temporary visa holders, including cash payments, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
One-off payments of $250 for visa holders suffering financial hardship and up to $1000 for families are part of the $3 million package being rolled out from Wednesday.
Tasmania has about 26,000 temporary visa holders, many of who have been hit hard by business closures in the tourism industry.
Premier Peter Gutwein said it was “only fair” temporary migrants hit by the coronavirus pandemic were supported.
“I want to say that I don’t agree with the very simple message that temporary visa holders should just go home,” he told reporters.
“It’s important we support these people who’ve been working in our community earning an income and this package will take the steps necessary to do that.”
“If any of us had children on the other side of the world, we hope they’d receive some sort of support,” Mr Gutwein said.
Tasmania has recorded 201 COVID-19 cases but just one new case was confirmed on Tuesday, the state’s lowest daily increase this month.
More than half of those cases are linked with an outbreak at two Burnie hospitals in the northwest, which forced 1200 healthcare staff to be quarantined and the facilities’ closure.
The federal government has called on those who can no longer finance their lives in Australia to consider returning to their home country.
It has said there remains an expectation for temporary migrants to support themselves, resisting calls to extend access to coronavirus support programs to the visa holders.
But Mr Gutwein warned in many cases these temporary migrants can’t return home because of travel restrictions.
“There are many people that have been living and working in Tasmania that are not in a position where they can return,” he said.
Tasmania will increase funding for non-government organisations to provide emergency relief for temporary visa holders.
The state government has also pledged to provide travel advice and financial support to help people return home when it is safe to do so.
“These visitors from overseas have helped build a stronger Tasmania, a more diverse Tasmania and a more skilled Tasmania,” Mr Gutwein said.
The federal government has extended superannuation access to temporary migrants who have been in Australia for longer than twelve months to support their access to additional funds.
But Labor’s Immigration spokesperson Kristina Keneally has called on the government to follow Tasmania’s lead and extend more COVID-19 support measures to those trapped in Australia.
“We risk prolonging the COVID-19 crisis if we ignore the 1.1 million people in Australia on temporary visas because a virus does not check some’s visa status before it infects them,” she said.
“The reality is they can’t go home right now. Borders are shut and international airlines are shutdown.”
Senator Keneally noted that Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Social Services Minister Anne Ruston have the power to extend the JobKeeper wage subsidy and Jobseeker welfare benefits to temporary migrants.
But Mr Frydenberg has said there are no plans to increase access to the government’s $130 billion wage subsidy program expected to support some 6 million Australian workers.
Mr Gutwein said Tasmania would work with industry sectors who want to retain employees on temporary visas because of their specialist skills.
The South Australian government has also announced a $13.8 million package for all international students enrolled and living in the state.