26 January 2009

Rudd promises $4bn fund to save 50,000 construction jobs

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Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has promised a safety package valued at $4 billion to save major commercial projects from crumbling under the pressure of the global economic slowdown, reports the Canberra Times.

The Australian Business Investment Partnership programme is a combined effort of the banks and the government, and it is hoped it will strengthen the construction sector against the fall-out effects of the global crisis.

Mr Rudd has cancelled three international forums so that he may focus on strengthening his nation's economy, including the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

''Without action, a combination of weak demand and tight credit conditions could see up to 50,000 people in the sector lose their jobs according to Treasury with flow-on effects to jobs in other parts of the economy,'' Mr Rudd said.

The four major Australian banks will collectively contribute $2 million in case foreign investments in construction fall at the wayside. 

Meanwhile, in the lead-up to the 2009-10 Budget, the debate concerning the levels of Australian immigration and its affect on the economy continues.  The Australian Conservation Fund (ACF) has called for a cut in the Australian skilled migration quota in the 2009-10 Budget in order to protect the environment, yet economic analysts are arguing that getting skilled workers to move to Australia is the best way to plug the growing skills gap in the Australian workforce.  The jobless rate in Australia and abroad is rising during the global financial crisis, and many see Australian migration as the answer to the growing critical skills shortage.

"There's going to be an extraordinary pool of experienced people looking for work and a real chance for Australia to fill gaps in sectors like health and engineering, which are crying out for them," Stephen Roberts, an economist at Nomura, told reporters.

Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Senator Chris Evans has said his Government would reassess the migration quota in-line with the predictions of the Australian economy, but would create a more targeted, holistic and future-planned immigration programme.

Today, at the Australia Day celebrations all over Australia, 13,000 Australian immigrants from over 90 countries became Australian citizens, with Perth holding the second largest citizenship ceremony in Australia's history (1,881 people). 

"We are a great success story," Senator Evans said.

"You go anywhere in the world and they say no-one has done it better than Australia at settling and promoting the success of its migrants."

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