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Issue #1643      June 18, 2014

Vic rally to bust brutal Budget

Thousands of Victorian workers rallied in Melbourne on June 12 against the brutal Abbott-Hockey Budget. The Budget will instantly hit workers through higher medical bills and higher petrol prices but the biggest threat comes to their job security from the brutal slashing to industry programs meant to rescue and grow manufacturing.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (MWU) fears that the axing of 10 major industry programs could bring forward auto job losses, reduce Australian content on major projects and strangle new technology firms and companies struggling to diversify into new markets.

The cutting of $846 million in these varied industry programs over five years cannot be replaced by a single Entrepreneurs Infrastructure Program with just over half that funding.

When combined with cutbacks to CSIRO research funds, abandoning the renewable energy industry and nastily stripping apprentices of their tool allowances, adds up to a government with no care for jobs and workers.

“Health and education are clearly the headline issues, but cuts across the board to industry, innovation and job creation will be silent killers for small and medium manufacturers,” said AMWU national president Andrew Dettmer.

“Australian industry – especially manufacturing – is already struggling through a lack of government investment and new free-trade deals with Japan and Korea. The car industry’s announced closure will soon see tens of thousands out of work.

“But this budget provides no relief, with further cuts to industry, cuts to research and innovation and no future plan for job creation.”

Programs on the $846 million chopping block include the Australian Industry Participation Program, Commercialisation Australia, Enterprise Solutions, the Innovation Investment Fund, the Industry Innovation Council, Enterprise Connect, and Industry Innovation Precincts.

“These programs were supported by industry, employers and unions as being excellent job creators and support for business, particularly for SMEs,” said Mr Dettmer.

There has been no consultation over how their replacement, the Entrepreneurs Infrastructure Program can use a paltry $461 million to make sure that innovation stays in Australia.

The cutting of the Australian Industry Participation Program means there will be no compulsion on developers of major projects over $500 million to provide a plan for compulsory Australian content, particularly metals firms in the mining states.

Premature job shedding in the auto industry is a risk as the Abbott governments cuts $837.7 million to the auto industry, including ending the Automotive Transformation Scheme from 2018 and ditching the Supporting Automotive Sector jobs scheme.

Cuts of $200 million to programs over this and the next financial years could see car makers exit early.

“The ATS money should be redirected immediately to parts manufacturers to allow them to transition, money is needed for training and assistance as the $100 million Growth Fund is woefully inadequate,” Mr Dettmer said.

The AMWU estimates that $6.4 billion in potential contracts for Australian firms could be sent overseas as a result of cuts to research and innovation bodies working with industry.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency will be abolished for a saving of $338 million.

The CSIRO takes a $111 million hit over four years, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation cut by $27.6 million – while the PM’s science prize gets a grant of $5.5 million.

“Research and development is being stripped while Mr Abbott awards prizes, it’s typical of this government’s warped priorities,” he said.

Next article – Van offers hope for eye issues

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