Industry calls for more support in Federal Budget

Manufacturing industry groups are calling on the government to inject more funds in to the sector, following a tough start to the year with various redundancies and factory closures announced.

This year alone, among job cuts in the manufacturing sector are 350 workers from Toyota's Altona plant, hundreds of people from Alcoa's aluminium smelters, and more than 100 jobs in Victoria's food production market. 

Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) chief executive Innes Willox says the government has to make some tough decisions when it comes to delivering a surplus for the 2012-2013 Federal Budget, which will be announced tonight.

"The major near-term danger is that any benefits from lower interest rates will be outweighed by detrimental economy-wide impacts flowing from a withdrawal of public sector spending or higher taxes,” he said.

“A second risk is the potential for the neglect of the longer-term drivers of growth and productivity improvement.

“Both scenarios could be particularly damaging for non-mining trade exposed industries such as manufacturing, tourism and education which are experiencing very difficult trading conditions and who need to lift productivity to counter the detrimental impacts of the higher currency and significant import competition.”

The Ai Group is imploring the government to: reduce the tax burden on productivity-enhancing business investment; boost support for entry level skills and workplace training; and extend backing for the development of business capabilities through the Enterprise Connect program.

The Group is also calling for a commitment to policies and programs that will ensure the long term ability of the manufacturing sector to capitalise on emerging opportunities; a modest increase in the 2012-13 immigration intake planning level; and increased procurement from Australia's defence industries.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is concerned about losing more jobs as a result of funding cuts, and asked the government in a pre-Budget submission to protect and secure jobs across the workforce, including in manufacturing.

“Given the uncertain global economic environment, the government must stand ready to adjust its fiscal priorities and its planned return to surplus in order to protect jobs,” said ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence. 

“Ongoing support to assist industries under siege from the high dollar to transform and remain competitive must be provided by the Government.

“To secure the gains from the boom for the next generation of working Australians, we need to put long-term sustainable job creation at the centre of economic policy. Secure jobs that pay decent wages and have workplace rights can be built on our economic strengths.”

The ACTU suggest removing “excessive tax breaks” for large companies, and “cracking down on sham contracting and unreported earnings”, which it says costs billions of dollars of lost tax revenues.

[Image: Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan, courtesy of TheConversation.edu.au]