Responding to the 2009 Federal Budget, ACTU President Sharan Burrow said:

“For working Australians and their families this is a Budget for jobs, jobs and jobs with a bit of tough love on the side.

“It takes the hard decisions that are needed now to safeguard jobs and protect Australians from the global recession. At the same time this Budget sets our economy up for the recovery.

“It is a Budget that takes big strides towards fixing the problems left over from the Howard-Costello years, reversing the Coalition’s chronic lack of investment in economic and social infrastructure with massive spending on nation-building projects.

“Australian companies must now get a fair go with access to these dollars to ensure jobs are kept right here in Australia and enable competitive capacity in local industries for a recovering global economy.

“The Budget provides a strong plan for creating jobs now and in the future by supporting climate-friendly industries and giving extra funding for the critical role of research and development and higher education in generating innovation.

“The Budget also brings more equity and compassion into the heart of the nation and buries WorkChoices by setting up a new system of workplace relations.

“Unions strongly welcome the massive commitment to support and create jobs by fast-tracking upgrades to schools, public housing, hospitals, roads, ports, rail and to build a new national broadband network.

“It will be essential that the Government uses these projects to maximise the creation of local jobs, provide apprenticeships for young Australians, and strengthen local industries.

“Australian companies and local suppliers have to get a fair go when it comes to tendering for these projects. Businesses that get public funding should be required to respect workers’ rights, curb executive salaries, and commit to providing apprenticeships and training.

“This Budget confirms the biggest upgrade of schools in Australia’s history and contains a big boost to skills development and training, which will help strengthen Australia as an internationally competitive and productive economy for the future.

“It also continues to meet the challenge of climate change and positions Australia to grow jobs when the downturn is over by supporting the development of local renewable energy, carbon-capture technology and climate-friendly industries.

“On top of the support that working families have already received in recent months, this Budget gives extra support to older Australians and victims of the global economic crisis, spreading the load more equitably across the community.

“The economic growth and employment forecasts in the Budget provide clear evidence that the Government is headed down the correct path of investing responsibly in jobs now to prevent a worsening outcome later. This is sensible economic management that will pay-off in future years.

“Unions are also delighted that this Budget contains an historic commitment to a national, government-funded 18-week paid maternity leave scheme for working mothers.

“Looking ahead, further steps are needed to protect jobs and workers’ rights, including equal rights for construction workers, lifting health and safety standards through new national laws, and ensuring low paid workers get a decent increase in minimum wages. This will help maintain their living standards and provide a further boost to the economy,” said Ms Burrow.