This federal budget is based on the unrealistic expectation that consumer spending will fuel the recovery - while acknowledging that income support and real wages will fall. The government had the opportunity to raise wages for workers, invest in manufacturing, support the move to renewables, fund TAFE, and tackle rising inequality. They did none of this.
The AMWU wants our members to see this budget for what it really is — a so-called “band aid budget” — with the government patching over their past mistakes in the hope that voters will be distracted by some strategically placed cash
Here are the AMWU’s top five takeaways from the federal budget:
1. Workers won’t wait for a pay rise
The government forecasts that wages will not rise above inflation until 2024-25, and there is nothing in the budget that will change this. Wages are forecast to grow by just 1.25% this year, the lowest wage growth we’ve seen since WWII. If wages don’t grow but the cost of living keeps increasing, workers will be unable to spend and put money back into their communities.
The government is actively helping to keep wages low by freezing public sector wages and encouraging the casualisation of the workforce. An increase in insecure work leads to lower wages overall, as people are more willing to accept low paying jobs because they’re desperate for any kind of pay cheque.
2. Manufacturing neglected
The manufacturing sector is crying out for government investment, but this budget failed to deliver. Covid-19 showed us the importance of having local supply chains and manufacturing capacity, but there is no new funding for expanding our manufacturing capabilities.
The government previously announced a $1.3bn Manufacturing Modernisation Initiative in October 2020, but it is yet to spend a cent of that funding. There was also no commitment made to support local jobs by implementing local content or job provisions on infrastructure projects.
3. No investment in TAFE
The government has cut $3 billion from TAFE since 2013, and there is no new funding for the provider in the budget.
Despite investing in the training and upskilling of workers and apprentices, what the government really wants to do is funnel these potential TAFE students to private registered training organisations. But these institutions often do not guarantee apprentices the on-the-job training and skills development they need.
We need skilled young people to go into our industries if we want to expand Australia’s manufacturing capacity. Young people learning a trade and skills are also future union members. A well-funded TAFE system helps our union to grow.
4. No support for renewable energy
The budget showed us that the government is committed to a gas-led recovery, with the budget including $58.6 million to expand domestic gas production. There is barely any funding allocated towards renewables, despite the United States and other countries committing to a greener future.
We know that renewable energy is cheap, sustainable and good for the planet. And there are job opportunities if local procurement targets are mandated on projects.
Instead, the government is giving $279.9m to big companies to help them reduce their emissions and energy consumption. Workers need a plan to deal with the changes to power generation that are coming, and the government failed to deliver one.
5. Inequality is here to stay, but the rich will get a tax cut
There is no increase to the JobSeeker payment in the budget. Many people on income support are living on just $44 a day. It's hard to look for work or study when you’re struggling to just get by.
And the low level of welfare payments leads to people taking on insecure work where they’re more likely to be underpaid and exploited.
We’re also dealing with a housing affordability crisis, but there was no commitment made to fund public housing and homelessness support.
What we got was tax cuts for the wealthy and businesses. It’s a budget for big business and their mates, not working Australians. This is why the union movement must step up and ensure that all workers, including unemployed workers are able to not just get by, but live. This starts with fighting for good secure jobs, and a pay rise across our industries, today.
We ask that you encourage workers who aren’t members to join our Union, so we can build the power and influence needed to push back against this anti-worker agenda.