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Unions push for 'buy Australian' to protect j -

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Reporter: Alexandra Kirk

ELEANOR HALL: As the global economic crisis deepens, the winds of protectionism have started to
blow around the world.

Now the Australian union movement is joining in with a proposal for a "Buy Australia" clause to be
followed by all three tiers of government.

The ACTU says that the Commonwealth alone spends $44-billion a year on goods and services and that
if it used this to buy Australian products this would help to save jobs.

But the Federal Government is warning against a protectionist push, as Alexandra Kirk reports from
Canberra.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Faced with the prospect of 300,000 jobs being lost over the next year, unions are
meeting today to devise a strategy to save jobs. They're pushing for the Federal Government to "Buy
Australian" when it spends $44-billion of taxpayers' money on goods and services each year.

Public sector procurement is big business.

And the 1850 jobs to be axed by clothing manufacturer Pacific Brands has galvanised the unions into
action.

Tony Sheldon from the Transport Workers Union says government procurement and the Commonwealth's
$42-billion stimulus package are a good place to start - maximising the benefits of taxpayer
dollars.

TONY SHELDON: It is critical that that money spent towards looking after Australian jobs and
Australian companies are able to, that are supported by taxpayers' money is actually providing good
paying, decent Australian employment.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Trade Minister Simon Crean is today meeting the head of the World Trade
Organisation Pascal Lamy - both are warning of the dangers of "creeping protectionism" in response
to the global economic downturn; worried it could spark a domino effect.

Mr Crean says protectionist measures invite retaliation. He says the Government's go for growth
strategy is the right approach.

SIMON CREAN: Well, there is no harm in the promotion of activities to try and encourage
Australian-made. It is when you mandate it and when you put up barriers against the competition,
that is what invites the retaliatory action. That is the downward spiral in trade; that halts any
of the recovery plans that we are talking about.

Understand this, Alex, the most effective way in which we can create job opportunity in this
country is to go for growth and what we are also about doing is enhancing that fiscal stimulus by
arguing for freer trade and trade liberalisation. And the reason for that is simple - the rate of
growth in world trade is faster than the rate of growth in world output.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: As it stands does the Government right now give preference to local suppliers and
jobs when considering its procurement purchases.

SIMON CREAN: It, it is urged many, many times, the giving of preference. I mean just simply arguing
that preference should be given all things being equal, of course, all countries do that and why
shouldn't they? It is the difference between the promotional and the urging, but leaving it to
effectively the competitive forces to determine the appropriate outcome.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: ACTU president Sharan Burrow is certain that jobs can be saved without flouting
world free trade rules.

SHARAN BURROW: We believe that right now, more than ever, acts of solidarity by businesses looking
to maximise Australian participation in their supply chain, looking to protect jobs, that is
essential to stabilising demand in the economy and therefore protecting jobs and families and
protects our economy to the extent it can from further downturns.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: And how many jobs do you think the Government could save?

SHARAN BURROW: Well, we would say it is not just the Government but in fact it is business overall,
because every company should be fighting for jobs at this point.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Now would you make this mandatory for both the Commonwealth Government and also the
private sector?

SHARAN BURROW: You have to look at what is available policy space within our international
obligations. This nonsense about protectionism is simply a distraction from looking at serious
policy initiatives.

These things can be encouraged and they can be put in tender arrangements from government through
to business more generally.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: And what will the tender say?

SHARAN BURROW: Well, we need to sit down and negotiate what it would say, but it would clearly look
to have companies provide an understanding of how they have gone about securing maximum
participation from Australian industry, whether it be manufacturing or services or construction or
other areas of the economy.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: On issue of price, what sort of a buffer do you think there should be, say between
choosing an Australian company or product that costs a bit more?

SHARAN BURROW: There is no magic figure - but if you look at price competitiveness and weigh it up
with the difference in cost of transport and the quality risk that companies bear, then we think
Australian businesses are competitive.

We are not asking the Government or any business to overturn international treaty obligations. What
we are saying is that there is policy space. If you ask Pascal Lamy or any other trade expert, they
will tell you there is policy space where you can look at sensible arrangements to maximise the
opportunity for businesses to be part and parcel of contractual arrangements and secure jobs into
the process.

ELEANOR HALL: That is ACTU President Sharon Burrow.