By William Olson
Days after the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) hit out at the Morrison government for not having a vision to reinvigorate the nation’s economy through a jobs-creation strategy, they unveiled one of their own on Monday.
Previously, Michele O’Neil, the ACTU’s national president, had attacked the government on its shortcomings over the JobTrainer scheme while citing its inactivity towards expanding the JobKeeper and JobSeeker programs, and two weeks after vowing themselves to provide the leadership on a jobs revival blueprint that the government has appeared lacking in its efforts to do, O’Neil and the ACTU have provided a thorough National Economic Reconstruction Plan (NERP) to attack the nation’s current unemployment crisis.
With unemployment figures for the month of June revealed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) last week at 7.4 per cent, O’Neil – in encouraging the Morrison government to pick up the ideals of the plan and run with it – sees her organization’s five-pronged NERP as one which is realistic as opposed to being aspirational.
“We need Government to put in place an ambitious and comprehensive National Economic Reconstruction plan to get the country back to work. Government must help build ongoing local jobs, more training and education opportunities to get people into jobs and provide support for people who are making things here in Australia,” O’Neil said in unveiling details of the NERP.
The ACTU’s five points defining the goals of the NERP – which aims to create or support jobs for one million people – include:
- Early Childhood Education, which would:
- promote free childcare permanently
- the construction of new not-for-profit facilities via capital investments
- funding of universal access to 15 hours of preschool for three- and four-year-olds
- and the ongoing maintenance of the JobKeeper subsidy for early childhood educators who are currently employed within the system;
- Training for Reconstruction, which would:
- rebuild the TAFE system to the extent of 150,000 places in the system nationwide
- return control of the system to state and Commonwealth governments, and make the system free to all students again
- advocating the extension of JobKeeper subsidies to the university system – which currently is not covered by the scheme – until the end of the 2020 academic year;
- Rediscover Australia, aimed at the tourism, hospitality, arts, travel and regional services for the next 12 months. This area would entail:
- supporting 350,000 jobs in those sectors
- Commonwealth sponsorship of those sectors’ events, productions and exhibitions in all states
- additional grant support for the Australia Council, and the expansion of the JobKeeper subsidy to include the arts and entertainment sector;
- National Reconstruction Investment Plan, which focuses on infrastructure and nation-building projects.
- $30 billion per year would be committed to boost investment in public capital projects, including funding for transportation, community and public housing, cultural and public service facilities, forest and fire management investments to better prepare for future fire seasons, and renewable energy assets and efficiency upgrades
- 75,000 jobs in the construction industry and over 100,000 additional indirect jobs in supply and consumer industries would be created
- benchmarks and KPI’s for Australian-made content to be measured;
- and a Sustainable Marketing Strategy:
- based around government rules to ensure Australian-made products were produced for all new infrastructure and public service projects
- zero interest loans to encourage new renewable energy developments possessing direct links to the manufacturing sector
- expanded Commonwealth investments in rapid decarbonization of the energy sector
- technology grants to support commercialised research and development
- five new Sustainable Manufacturing Clusters in key areas including: lithium battery and value-added manufacturing; renewable hydrogen production; green primary metal manufacturing; electric vehicle manufacturing and servicing; and renewable energy machinery
- a Superpower Investment Fund to undertake co-investments (including public equity shares) in new sustainable manufacturing activities.
The terms of the NERP’s programs may be heavy on the details, but O’Neil sees the comprehensive nature of them as something which the Morrison government can invest in, to add to its advocacy.
“We need big and bold Government investment and action in order for Australia to return to health – both socially and economically,” she said.
“We are calling on Scott Morrison and his Government to think big by investing public money for public good, in creating jobs that support people and communities now and into the future,” O’Neil said.
Moreover, from its lobbyist’s position, while O’Neil and the ACTU are putting NERP’s details forward for a good reason – in O’Neil’s words, “currently the Government has no plan to rebuild our economy and steer the country through the next stages of this crisis” – their objective is clear.
And the NERP’s objectives promise to possess a wide-ranging impact, with the ball now in the court of the Morrison government.
“Our initiatives will support and create jobs for women and men, for cities and towns, and for young people as well as older workers,” said O’Neil.
“This is a plan for a jobs-led economic reconstruction,” she added.
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