Finance Minister Grant Robertson to Skype Australian counterpart as Canberra trip cancelled

Finance Minister Grant Robertson's trip to Canberra to meet with his Australian counterpart has been cancelled and the pair will now talk over Skype.

"Finance Minister Grant Robertson will hold his scheduled call with Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg today via Skype," a statement from Robertson's office said.

"It was decided he would not make the one-day trip to Canberra as the Government finalises details of the Business Continuity Package and economic response to COVID-19."

The statement added, "This is a changing situation, and as I am sure people will understand, that means we have to be prepared to make changed like this from time to time.

"On the call with Treasurer Frydenberg today we will cover a range of important issues, including responses to the situation presented by the global spread of COVID-19.

"As we respond to this global health crisis it is important to keep in regular contact with our closes neighbour and trading partner. It is important that we share information and work closely together on our responses to this global event."

Robertson will announce details next week of the Government's economic package, which will include a wage subsidy scheme and training and redeployment options for affected workers.

Beyond that, the Government is working on the next phase of economic support for COVID-19-affected businesses should the economic impact worsen causing a sustained global downturn.

Robertson, speaking to the Wellington Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, said long-term measures "could include tax and welfare changes that support incomes and consumption, and help businesses stay afloat".

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Thursday a $17.6 billion (NZ$18.2 billion) coronavirus stimulus package, with more than six million Australians set to receive a one-off payment of AU$750 (NZ$775).

Robertson said New Zealand is in a different position than Australia, having already announced a $12 billion infrastructure package.

"As our friends in Australia look to boost infrastructure, we have already got ahead of the curve with the announcement of our $12 billion investment in infrastructure through the New Zealand Upgrade Programme."

The Finance Minister also compared New Zealand's 4 percent unemployment rate to Australia's 5.3 percent, and commented on New Zealand's debit position being "significantly lower than other countries".

"Global stock markets are well down on the start of the year and remain volatile... So, that is a brief summary of where we are at. Of course this situation is rapidly evolving and we are constantly seeing new developments."