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Budget doomed without quick and fair, equal action – ACTU’s O’Neil

Michele O’Neil, the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), wasted neither time nor words of vitriol at responding to the details of the 2020-21 federal budget on Tuesday evening.

O’Neil said that – upon federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s reading of the budget plan – the Morrison government “has set itself up to fail” its test. And that test is bound to be judged as a success or failure based upon the protection of current jobs and the creation of new jobs in a rapid fashion.

And at the outset, O’Neil says that the government is failing its own statistical tests on this new budget, especially if workers across Australia do not stand to benefit from it.

“The question for the federal government is, ‘Will working Australians wake up tomorrow morning safer and more secure?’” O’Neil asked, in a rhetorical fashion.

“Unfortunately, the government has set itself to fail this test with its own numbers saying unemployment will rise to eight percent and stay at a devastating 6.5 percent until 2022, even while the economy is projected to grow.

“The government’s decision to spend is welcome but will be meaningless if money does not end up in the pockets of workers. It is working people with the confidence to spend who will restart the economy,” O’Neil added.

And after multiple attempts to offer its National Economic Reconstruction Plan (NERP) to the government to adopt as a jobs-based blueprint to kickstart the economy out of a pandemic-era recession, only a few areas were barely accepted and touched upon by Frydenberg – regarding only fringe areas surrounding infrastructure and tourism – and lacking the detail laid out in the ACTU’s NERP program.

“The programs and projects delivered must create secure jobs across the economy, and for the people hit hardest by the pandemic, to give them confidence to drive us out of recession,” O’Neil said in a general manner regarding the application of the government’s overall plan.

“There is a real missed opportunity to pick up ideas like free childcare to give women the best chance to get back to work and supporting our TAFE system which were highlighted in our National Economic Reconstruction Plan,” she added.

As per wage subsidies, O’Neil and the ACTU stress that any sort of aid for workers, the unemployed and the under-employed – whether it means further extensions for JobKeeper and JobSeeker, for example – must take a route-one approach to all people, including those in regional areas as well as in the metropolitan regions, men and women alike, and younger and older workers equally.

Quickness and fairness have to reign within the bounds of this budget’s application, if ultimately approved by the federal Parliament, say O’Neil and the ACTU.

“We do welcome a wage subsidy scheme and training and apprenticeships for young workers but the money must flow to workers, and we need safeguards to prevent businesses using government investment to increase executive pay, bonuses, or payoffs to shareholders,” said O’Neil.

O’Neil also acknowledged that small businesses needed to benefit from the proposed budget, as a means towards championing their workers, but also felt that the variety of tax cuts offered to small business would not accomplished those aims.

“We are also concerned about the tax cuts and believe that investment in services and public programs are a better long- term investment than individual tax cuts,” she said.

“A tax cut does nothing for you if you don’t have a job,” added O’Neil..

O’Neil also said that the ACTU’s lobbying and advocacy efforts are bound to hit another higher gear in order to ensure that workers’ needs are put first.

“We will continue to fight to ensure that taxpayers’ money spent in this budget accelerates the recovery and delivers more secure jobs for working people who have sacrificed so much to get the country through this crisis,” said O’Neil.

O’Neil and the ACTU are also keeping one collective eye affixed upon the outcomes from the industrial relations reform negotiations from the previous several months, those which Attorney-General Christian Porter recently said that the government is currently “synthesising views into workable products” to put before Parliament in the way of legislation.

Those talks pitting the federal government and business lobby groups against the union movement may focus on any accords that will be made which could impact workers’ cultures in the future.

But at the end of it all, O’Neil insists that workers’ rights and conditions must remain sacrosanct.

“An important measure of this budget is yet to come in the government’s approach to worker’s rights and conditions,” said O’Neil.

“The economic recovery will hinge on whether some in the business lobby get their way and we see industrial relations changes that cut workers’ pay and erode rights and conditions,” added O’Neil.


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  1. Baby Jewels

    No improvement in employment while the economy is set to grow? We all know what that means, don’t we. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer. The rich are always the ones to get the support.

  2. Bill

    Tax-cut gifts flowing from the Budget are a part of the further descent into socialism (call it communism if you like). Daddy-Mummy gov has your back. Bibi Frydenburg is doing what any Treasurer tasked with destroying a functioning economy would do, propping up businesses that have seen their use-by-date, eg restaurants/bars/tourism. Blowing out the gov debt is a bonus – ask the Loans desk @ the IMF. Once a nation is on the IMF hook say goodbye to national sovereignty. Bibi is probably aware of the UN Sustainable Goals/Smart Cities plan and the need to introduce a UBI at some point, but, between now and then why not experiment and prop up some zombie industries and see what happens? Banks are always there as a backstop to hoover up distressed assets.
    My most recent interesting find is Aaron Russo, producer of ‘Trading Places’. I thought I knew the reason behind the Women’s Liberation movement until I watched one of his interviews where he speaks about insights given him by a Rockerfeller. Think you know what’s in the upcoming vaccines? Check what he has to say about that too or, if you prefer, stick your head in the sand. If you don’t look into it now you can always find out the purpose of the vaccine as a surprise after the fact.

  3. guest

    Looks like any number of conspiracy theories are alive and well in Oz, especially those flourishing in the USA. Freedom is the solution for every problem and only the paranoids know what is really going on.

  4. Nuff said

    Employer…..would you mind advertising for 3 under the age of 30 to join our business……but sir, we don’t need extra staff, O yes we do, you and 2 more are to be replaced by younger employees and i will get the govt Wage subsidy.

  5. andy56

    We dont need conspiracy theories to analyse whats going on. All they do is come up with wacky cause and effect.
    We have fundamental cracks in the economic structures, covid just exposed them faster than rants from people like me.
    We had an opportunity for an economic reset but the LNP have gone for ideology on turbo charge. Some of the things in the budget are reasonable but when you add it up as a whole, its worth less than the sum of the parts-if thats at all possible, they found a way.

    Just do some basic maths. $26b to create 50,000 jobs, straight out of Josh’s mouth. $623,000 per job. So by any KPI, this is totally inefficient. So to you guys that keep saying UBI wont work, just keep paying taxes so the government can create jobs. A UBI of $25,000 a year would support 1million australians with these funds. Just remember we put more than $20b into super every year and the government provides another $20b to prop it up.

    An economic rest would have cost just the same amount, could have propped up businesses that had to close due to virus, could supported people out of poverty and prepped us for the generational change coming. The irony is that communist china is bragging about dragging people out of poverty while we institutionalise it!

    Instead what we got was a guy from a business council or investor company, i kinda forgot, saying its exactly what business wanted. Lee Sales then asked if he would change the planned cuts to investment and the surprise answer was , “er ,er, we are different..”

    We are no longer in a demand driven capitalist economy, according to Joshy. So lets drive supply. In a sense he is right, we are more a sausage making enterprise, so lets make more sausages. Dont worry, when the sausages are being given away free, we will see sales grow.

    Self funded retirees have copped a hammering from self righteous people who practice the politics of envy. Self funded retirees just worked to maximise their retirement benefits, just like everyone else who puts money in super. Sure they got breaks but in this environment all past surities are thrown out the window. How about some humility and accept that people with stranded assets can still starve. I would have thought now was the right time to reset how retirement is funded, on a more equitable and fair system. No self funded would object to that. But start with the politics of envy and all rational thought goes out the window. I suspect the politics of envy is what got the libs over the line.

  6. andy56

    Bill, its not a decent into socialism, far from it. Its Voodoo economics. It trying to mix all kinds of economic theory into a political and ideological message. Its all the mixed messages that your looking at. Labor debt bad, Liberal good. Stimulus to supply with grudging support to the unemployed, NOT TO DEMAND. No longer a trade of value economy but a sausage factory. Its confusion on a mass scale. All the while us sausage line workers can see all those jobs disappear to cheap asian labour and soon mechanisation. All attempts at propping up the pyramid from the top have crumbled with this virus. I suspect Marx was more clued up than most, lol. We have had a century to clean up what a lot saw coming, but most didn’t. A sense of Hubris while the getting was good.

    You wont see any alternative views in mainstream media because the ” do as i say” school has been on top for the last 100yrs. The new kid on the block MMT still doesnt understand human needs, and, in thinking for ways to self sustain the bubble when we are in times of rapid change. No bubble is immune to change. We still have this primitive mindset of survival of the fittest. When we should be thinking about what are we doing this for, how can we improve things. Like is super really a necessity when a decent pension is cheaper and less complicated.? No not socialism at all, just a foggy mind set, the blind leading the blind

  7. Bill

    andy56, I agree with a lot of what you say. The LNP has no real interest in fairness or mending the economy. The time for UBI is now as a lot of jobs are not coming back. Asking people to pretend to look for jobs that don’t exist is an exercise in futility and will backfire in time. I’ve studied the covid situation as stage-managed by the WHO. Covid-19 is one of 30 coronaviruses and only slightly more dangerous than any previous seasonal flu. MSM is over the top, they can’t even research protocols issued by the CDC or NIH without throwing a hissy fit of moral outrage, making up their own conspiracy theories along the way. Talking up fear/danger and playing the medical martial law card is now a first option when the gov wants change. Few question the legitimacy of what we are being asked to do. For anyone studying the science behind the medicine it’s almost a total farce. Imagine selecting as your chief medical officer for a plandemic someone who specialized in neither virology or epidemiology but rather climate change.

  8. guest

    Bill, you sound as if you are quoting straight from the IPA-driven Murdoch media:
    “…covid situation as stage-managed by the WHO…slightly more dangerous than any previous seasonal flu…MSM is over the top, they can’t even research protocols issued by the CDC or NIH…Talking up fear/danger and playing the medical martial law card. Few question the legitimacy of what we are being asked to do…for anyone studying the science behind the medicine, it’s almost a total farce…”

    Some facts about covid:

    Norway 14,784 cases 275 deaths
    Denmark 30, 379 663
    Sweden 96, 145 5,883
    USA 7,722,746 215,822

    At one stage, Sweden had 12X the corona effects of Norway.

    The USA with 4% of the world’s population has so far had 20% of the world’s corona deaths.

    Does any of that make sense to you? Any way you can reconcile any of that with what you have written?

    The pandemic, it’s all so “stage-managed” by the WHO, such a “total farce”! Just like climate change: a scam organised by the UN to take over the world.

    Oh, be afraid, be very afraid. We are all being ruined by crazy lefties!

    And andy56 and the “do as i say school”? Look at the Murdoch media and its multitudes of criticisms and advice about almost everything, and none of it very applicable in real pragmatic terms. Look at the leadership of the USA, for example. Or the antique waffling about a technological road to energy recovery sometime late this century. Or Janet Albrechtsen instructing California about how to involve more women in business CEO positions. Is Murdoch media the same as MSM news outlets?

  9. andy56

    guest, maybe you mis construe what i mean by the ” do as i say school”. Economics students are steered towards the standard ” theories” of economics. I am sure others are mentioned in passing. But you only have to read what the mainstream media guys say to realise most are stuck in “theory”. I would have thought statements like unemployment benefits need to be low enough to provide an incentive to work belong in the theory bubble and have no place in an intelligent society. Politics of envy dressed as “common wisdom”. How much other stuff is down right crazy?

  10. guest


    yes, you are right, there are many economic theories. Some economists are stuck in one mindset, so that even any kind of government old age pension is socialist and a scheme such as medicare is socialist … so that the idea of a basic universal income is heresy for the conservatives. And the idea of Keynsian government spending was kicked and bashed when Labor tackled the GFC – yet here we have the conservative Coalition doing exactly that, in spades. What is the alternative?

    The conservatives have been berating the government for spending so much, for not releasing industry and small business back into circulation and people back to work and borders opened up quickly quickly… Who cares about some virus no more dangerous than a flu?

    And part of the economy continues to be driven by fossil fuels, both coal and gas for decades to come!

    And the commentary, especially in the Murdoch media, is accompanied by hopelessly contradictory sceptical climate change headsets found in IPA publications supporting the fossil fuel barons.

    Modern monetary theory is beyond thinking about, they say.

    We need a new economy and the Coalition is hoping that someone will come along and do it for them because they themselves do not know how to do it, because, you know, small government is the way to go, according to them. Business as usual is much more comfortable.

  11. andy56

    Guest i agree , we need a new economy. Maybe one based on engineering principles for infrastructure rather than economic theory? Maybe one based on basic maths rather than ideology. Means we wont put a handfull of refugees in a ” prison: and give tax payers the multibillion dollar bill. Maybe get rid of super and pay a decent pension, by my calculations , up to $100b can be released , not to mention the trillions currently held by super funds. Lots of ” punishment ” bureaucracy can be eliminated with a UBI. Earn more and you get taxed at the appropriate rate, EVERYONE benefits, you only have the tax office to deal with, not a stern faced bureaucrat who is looking to give you nothing.
    I’m all for tax breaks for business but the tax deductions circle has to be broken. Any government handouts need to have the caveat of X number of jobs because anyone with half a brain will tell you that shinny new machine needs less workers to operate.
    UBI verse government created jobs. Well the numbers are in. $26b will create 50,000 so says Joshy, thats $623,000 PER JOB.
    $25,000 UBI will support 1 million workers for the same outlay. UBI HANDS DOWN THE WINNER by a factor of 20

  12. New England Cocky

    It appears that the Scummo COALiiton misgovernment is clearly demonstrating just how unfit for public office the Liarbral Nazional$ are. Does anybody need any further proof that the COALition are NOT the best financial managers in Australian politics?

    @andy56: I agree with your comments. Corporate socialism and agricultural socialism are two scourges of the Australian economy. However, the too many government subsidies to the undeserving wealthy and corporates will combine the bring down the Australian economy deprived of any taxation base.

    @Anonymous ”guest”: Trolls have little credibility on this website. If you want to be read or your comments taken seriously then you have to identify yourself. Otherwise, bugger off back to your Liarbral rathole.

  13. guest

    Anonymous New England Cocky,

    I am a “troll” in a “Liarbral rathole”? Really?

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