The 2008 Federal Budget is a good step towards undoing the damage of Work Choices and relieving the pressure on working Australians and their families.ACTU President Sharan Burrow said:
“This Budget signals a clear break with the past and an end to the waste for the well-off and lazy neglect that marked the previous Liberal Government’s management of the Australian economy.
“It continues the task of getting rid of Work Choices with extra support for the independent umpire and for investigating cases of workers that were ripped off under the old IR laws. But unions would like the Rudd Government to go further and faster in some areas, particularly in restoring the rights of building workers.
“The tax cuts are well-targeted to people on low and middle incomes. Along with the Medicare surcharge exemptions, a rebate for education expenses and a big boost to childcare, they will provide significant financial relief for working Australians and their families.
“Average income earners will gain $20 a week while families with both parents working and two young children in care three days a week will gain around $60 a week.
“The extra support for public health, hospitals and preventative health are very welcome, helping restore access to quality health care that is affordable for all Australians and stemming the drift to private health insurance and higher medical costs for families.
“Apprenticeships, places at TAFE, trades training centres in schools, early childhood education as well as research fellowships and awards – all receive a long overdue boost. In many respects these education and training measures are the centrepiece of the Budget. They begin to fix the massive skills crisis that emerged under the former Liberal Government which stifled the economy and continues to harm working families by pushing up inflation and interest rates.
“Improved training and assistance for sole parents and unemployed people are welcome on both equity and economic grounds – encouraging greater workforce participation and reducing the labour shortage.
“While the prospect of ‘efficiency dividend’ cuts in the public service is of concern, it is heartening to see the Rudd Government delivering substantial new resources for dealing with climate change through support for clean coal and renewable energy, improving housing affordability and building homes for the homeless, providing aged care services, supporting parents of children with disabilities, boosting Indigenous education and health services, and for new jobs in regional and rural Australia.
“Unions are also pleased with the major additional support to Australian jobs, local industry and long term economic development with $40 billion to be invested via three new funds into infrastructure, education and health to strengthen the economy and deliver services beyond the mining boom.
“Over the next few years jobs and the economy are predicted to continue to grow strongly with wage rises remaining moderate and inflation coming down to 2.5% next year,” said Ms Burrow.
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