A boost to the nation’s infrastructure funding must be part of a package to insulate Australia from the impact of the global economic slowdown, unions said today.

Commenting ahead of Tuesday’s meeting of local government leaders and the Prime Minister, ACTU President Sharan Burrow said increased infrastructure spending would provide a stimulus to the economy and increase Australia’s future economic capacity.

Priority must be given to projects which add to productivity and set the nation up for growth once the immediate economic concerns are resolved, she said.

The projects must help generate new jobs, provide secure employment and deliver benefits to working families.

Key areas for investment should include sustainable industries that help Australia respond to climate change, public transport, and affordable rental and community housing.

“The Government is right to have taken quick action at a macro level to inject $10.4 billion into the economy before Christmas as a buffer against a slowdown caused by the global credit crunch,” Ms Burrow said.

“Any extra funding for local government infrastructure should target areas where the downturn is more severe and create lasting benefits to improve quality of life for working Australians and their families in those areas.

“We would like to see the government expand its program beyond community facilities to other infrastructure like road networks that will add to Australia’s productive capacity.”

“The current financial crisis also highlights the importance of new industrial relations laws that restore workers’ rights, provide greater income security, and boost productivity and growth in the long term,” Ms Burrow said.