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Fed Govt reveals $300m help for axed workers -

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Fed Govt reveals $300m help for axed workers

The World Today - Tuesday, 24 February , 2009 12:14:00

Reporter: Sabra Lane

ELEANOR HALL: Well the global financial crisis is also continuing to hit government coffers in
Australia.

The Federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy told a Senate Estimates hearing this morning
that the amount of money available for national infrastructure projects has been revised down.

In last year's Budget the Government set aside $20-billion for its Building Australia Fund but that
figure has been slashed to just over $12.5-billion.

The Prime Minister told caucus this morning that no one can say when the global financial crisis
will end and he announced that the Government would provide nearly $300-million to help retrenched
workers.

In Canberra, Sabra Lane reports.

SABRA LANE: Amid the seriousness of the global financial crisis, some light relief courtesy of the
Deputy Prime Minister. Julia Gillard yesterday gave a free assessment of Liberal's Tony Abbott and
Christopher Pyne, as Mr Pyne was chosen ahead of the Member for Warringah in his new role as the
Opposition's chief tactician in Parliament.

JULIA GILLARD: I did want to see the Member for Warringah making a comeback.

MR SPEAKER: Order, Deputy Prime Minister.

JULIA GILLARD: In a choice between macho and mincing I would have gone for macho myself and
obviously the leader of the Opposition, faced with the choice of a doberman or poodle, has gone for
the poodle.

SABRA LANE: Today on Sky News Tony Abbott certainly wasn't showing any anger over the comments and
made no secret he was disappointed about being pipped by Mr Pyne.

TONY ABBOTT: And look I would have been very happy to have been battling across the Chamber in that
job.

SABRA LANE: And Mr Abbott delivered a bouquet of his own.

TONY ABBOTT: Kevin Rudd's approval ratings continue in the stratosphere but he is probably the
worst parliamentarian as Prime Minister since Billy McMahon. I mean, the guy is a toxic bore in the
Parliament and thank god you've got Gillard there, who is a fine parliamentarian, to liven up the
awful performances from the Labor front bench.

SABRA LANE: Labor parliamentary secretary Greg Combet was sitting alongside Mr Abbott as he made
the comments and it appeared he was trying to stifle a giggle.

GREG COMBET: You can't help it if Tony nods off occasionally, you know, and he's trying to blame
Kevin Rudd for it but Kevin Rudd's of course a fantastic parliamentarian.

TONY ABBOTT: But you guys go to sleep too, when Kevin....

GREG COMBET: Not me mate, I'm 100 per cent on the ball the whole time (laughs).

I mean, you must be getting the simultaneous translation of what Kevin says into English.

SABRA LANE: And the Prime Minister was asked this morning, is he a toxic bore?

KEVIN RUDD: Can I say that anyone... anyone... who...

REPORTER: Leave that where it is?

SABRA LANE: Boring or not, today's Newspoll figures show that voters still prefer Kevin Rudd over
Malcolm Turnbull. But given the Opposition leader predicted he and his party would cop a belting in
the opinion polls over their opposition to the Government's $42-billion stimulus package, Mr
Turnbull might be feeling a tad relieved with today's figures.

On a two-party preferred basis the polls haven't changed. Labor stands at 58 percent, the Coalition
is at 42, 16 points behind.

The Prime Minister's satisfaction rating is up three points to 66. Malcolm Turnbull's
dissatisfaction rating hasn't changed. It's steady at 38 points.

Liberal Senator Eric Abetz thinks the figures will change eventually.

ERIC ABETZ: We anticipated we'd take a hit in the polls in relation to the so-called stimulus
package and once the sugar coating has worn off, I think that people will be getting the bitter
taste of the pill.

SABRA LANE: And veteran Liberal Wilson Tuckey believes the Coalition's public bickering explains
the results.

WILSON TUCKEY: I personally drew attention to our poll performance at our last Liberal meeting in
the previous fortnight. But we've got to address that and the place to do it is in the party room
and part of my message will be that if everybody gave up on backgrounding you blokes, we might
actually get a focus on the government.

SABRA LANE: And the focus has switched back to the Government, especially with admissions like the
one Communications Minister Stephen Conroy gave to a Senate Estimates committee hearing this
morning.

The Greens Senator Scott Ludlam wanted to know if the Government's infrastructure plans were still
on track given the financial crisis.

SCOTT LUDLAM: Minister, can I confirm with you that the Building Australian Fund (BAF) is still
funded to the degree that it was before the Budget went into deficit? $20-odd billion, thereabouts?

STEPHEN CONROY: $12.6-billion has already been allocated to BAF and further allocation are subject
to budget circumstances.

SCOTT LUDLAM: Okay, because we started with an allocation of 20 and now we're down to 12-and-a-bit.
Is that correct?

STEPHEN CONROY: The lesser figure is due to revision in Budget surpluses.

SABRA LANE: And the Government's conscious of the revisions happening around the kitchen tables of
Australia because of redundancies and lay-offs. This morning the Prime Minister announced
$298-million to provide immediate and personalised assistance to retrenched workers.

KEVIN RUDD: That means that persons in those circumstances would be immediately available,
immediately able to access what is called 'stream-to' services. Career advice, comprehensive skills
assessments, skills development training, IT support and stationary support to help with job
applications, targeted referral to appropriate education and training, and also a $550 credit to
the Employment Pathway Fund for items such as computer courses, heavy vehicle licenses, safety
boots and work uniforms.

This is a practical set of supports available to retrenched workers but the big change is it is
available now as opposed to workers having to wait three months.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, ending that report from Sabra Lane in Canberra.