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Greens negotiate economic stimulus package

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Bob Brown 12 Feb 2009
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The Greens have succeeded in achieving commonsense amendments to the $42 billion economic stimulus package.

The Greens recognise the government's stimulus package is important to deal with the financial downturn. We have therefore worked co-operatively and responsibly to improve the package with amendments that deliver a better return for taxpayers.

The Greens have achieved initiatives which will create thousands of green jobs in communities across Australia, and provide greater financial assistance and support for unemployed and low-income Australians.

Our amendments provide a big environmental and social dividend. Through our urging, the national government is moving, like none before it, to apply energy efficiency standards to future housing, bringing Australia closer to best practice in America and Europe. This will lead to cheaper, greener and more comfortable housing for thousands of Australian families.

There is a multi-million dollar package for refurbishing Australia's neglected heritage buildings and the biggest ever commitment to bikeways, with more to come.

We believe a reduction in payouts to fund the amendments is better than incurring further debt. The Greens would prefer that the cash payouts, except to poorer Australians, had gone to infrastructure with long-term benefits and job creation and we will continue to apply scrutiny and constructive criticism to the $42 billion outlay.

Find out more:

Watch Senator Bob Brown's speech in the Senate:

Read the Greens' speeches in the Senate on the stimulus package:

 

Also, don't miss Christine's passionate speech about the ecological debt that our nation could be left with, if we don't act now.

LOCAL GREEN JOBS PACKAGE
The Greens have facilitated more than half a billion dollars in job creation in its Local Greens Jobs Package.

More than 10,000 new jobs will be created across Australia moving Australia towards the strong, healthy, jobs-rich, green economy long championed by the Greens

Read more: Local Green Jobs package creates 10,000 jobs
Greens boost local jobs and unemployed

HERITAGE INFRASTRUCTURE
$60 million for heritage infrastructure available to councils and community organisations
Heritage Buildings & Natural Heritage.

The Greens secured $60 million for projects involving the preservation of:

  • National heritage-listed buildings and historic properties managed by the National Trust;
  • Community heritage projects including locally significant buildings; and
  • Natural heritage projects such as walking trails and upgrade of public spaces.

One off grants of up to $2 million will be made available for specific projects in communities that are ready to be implemented and employ people immediately.

Given the importance of generating local economic activity, it is proposed that where projects involve local infrastructure, funding be quarantined for the building of bike paths and the preservation of heritage buildings - both areas where there are known projects that are ready to commence.

Read more: Greens secure $60 million for National Heritage
Australia ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites)
National Trust applauds the Government and the Senate for the heritage funding in the stimulus package

The procedures for applying for these funds are yet to be put in place.

CYCLING INFRASTRUCTURE
$40 Million for Cycling Infrastructure

The Greens secured Australia's biggest ever investment in cycleways to help everyone in Australia's cities by cleaning the air, reducing traffic congestion, creating hundreds of jobs and addressing the health, peak oil and climate crises.

The initial $40 million commitment will be followed by further investment through Infrastructure Australia.

Given the importance of generating local economic activity, it is proposed that where projects involve local infrastructure, funding be quarantined for the building of bike paths and the preservation of heritage buildings - both areas where there are known projects that are ready to commence.

In 2008, for the ninth year in a row Australian bicycle sales outstripped motor vehicle sales. And, Australians are not just buying bikes, they are using them increasingly frequently.

Census figures show a 28% increase in riding to work across Australian capital cities. This growth is largely centred in areas with superior levels of bicycle infrastructure.

Read more: Greens secure energy efficiency and local green jobs package
Cycling promotion applaud Greens

Quick Facts from the Cycling Promotion Fund

  1. Over 50% of car trips in Australian cities are under 5km and 30% are less than 3km
  2. Transport is responsible for 34% of household greenhouse gas emissions
  3. The Australian Bicycle Industry is worth approx $1 billion and employs around 6000 people
  4. Established 8 years ago, the CPF is the peak body representing Australia's Bicycle Industry

The procedures for applying for these funds are yet to be put in place.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY
Six-Star Rating

The Greens negotiated a commitment from government to gain the agreement of the States and Territories to a Six Star Energy Efficiency Rating for residential buildings at the next COAG (Council of Australian Governments) meeting. With the agreement of the States and Territories the Australian Government will write to the Australian Building Code Board seeking for them to incorporate a Six Star Energy Efficiency Rating in the building Code of Australia by May 2010.

Thus in sum the Greens achieved to drive COAG from inconsistent five star ratings to nationally agreed six star ratings by 2010.

Read more: Greens secure energy efficiency and local green jobs package

Insulation/ Energy Efficient Homes Package
The Rudd Government announced the $3.9 billion Energy Efficient Homes package on 3 February 2009 as part of the $42 billion Nation Building and Jobs Plan.

The Energy Efficient Homes Package includes The Homeowner Insulation Program, The Low Emission Assistance Plan for Renters and the The Solar Hot Water Rebate.

Read more: Energy Efficient Homes Package

Schools Infrastructure
The Greens ensured that the $14 billion of new school infrastructure will be designed for energy efficiency reducing their impact on the climate.

Specifically the Greens negotiated a commitment from government that as part of the major infrastructure component under the second and third stages, any new building will be designed to maximise energy efficiency including insulation, energy efficient solar hot water (where appropriate), energy efficient lighting, energy efficient glazing, energy efficient heating and cooling, and a water tank.

The procedures for applying for these funds are yet to be put in place.

Social Housing
The Greens ensured that the $6 billion of social housing will be designed for energy efficiency, helping the neediest Australians save money as well as reduce their impact on the climate.
Specifically the Greens negotiated a commitment from government to ensure that social housing built under the second stage of the package includes appropriate draught proofing, solar hot water heater (or equivalent), energy efficient glazing and a water tank. Where possible, social housing built under the second stage of the package will conform to Six Star Energy Efficiency Rating, which includes insulation, draught proofing, solar hot water heater (or equivalent), energy efficient lighting and energy efficient glazing, shading and a water tank.

Proposals from the states for new social/community housing construction projects to be completed between 2008-09 and 2009-10 (Stage One) were to have been submitted by 15 March 2009, with allocations to be made by the Commonwealth by 1 April 2009.

Proposals from the states for Stage Two construction projects (with funds to be allocated from 2009-10 to 2011-12) are to be submitted by 30 June 2009, and the Commonwealth is to make allocations for suitable proposals by 30 August 2009.

The states were to have submitted proposals for repairs and maintenance funding under the Social Housing Initiative by 15 February 2009. The Commonwealth was due to have provided approvals by 1 March 2009.

At this stage, community housing organisations and industry are being ‘encouraged to approach their State and Territory Governments for advice on how to participate' in Stage Two.

Read more: Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs

MURRAY DARLING
The Greens exercised their influence in the Senate to deliver an economic stimulus package that supports the lower Murray, including $10 million of new money to rescue South Australia's Lower Lakes and create more than 100 local jobs there.

The Greens have gained $10 million in new money for the Lower Lakes for new bioremediation and revegetation trials in newly identified suitable sites in and around the Lower Lakes, in a process that would seek to engage and involve the local community.

Read more: Greens win lifeline for Lower Lakes in stimulus package
$200m Senate deal delivers first fo community water plans

The procedures for applying for these funds are yet to be put in place.

BUSHFIRE COOPERATIVE RESEARCH CENTRE - NEW TRIENNIUM FUNDING
The Greens negotiated for three year funding of $5 million per year for the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre in Melbourne and obtained agreement for the government to upgrade a Global Wildfire Research Centre.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT FUND
All Councils eligible to apply for funding under the Local Community Infrastructure Program

The Australian Greens negotiated for all local councils in Australia to be eligible to apply for a share of $550 million under the February 2009 federal economic stimulus package.

In November 2008 the federal government allocated $300 million for the Regional and Local Infrastructure Program, $50 million of which was open to competitive tendering from local councils.

Only local councils which applied for funding in 2008 were eligible to apply for more funding under the economic stimulus package.

Many smaller councils found it difficult to apply in 2008 because of the tight deadline for applications and the requirement that projects start within six months.

Under the deal the Greens negotiated for all local councils to be eligible to apply for the $550 million put aside in the economic stimulus package.

The funds will be immediately available for local infrastructure works- supporting job creation in all local communities across Australia.

Read more: Greens secure wins for councils in stimulus

Councils and shires had until Friday 6 March 2009 to submit new or revised applications.

INCREASED EMERGENCY RELIEF AND OTHER SERVICES FOR THE UNEMPLOYED
The Australian Greens successfully negotiated amendments to the Government's economic stimulus package that create a better safety net for those most vulnerable and the unemployed, whilst also creating 10,000 local green jobs.

With some reports estimating an additional 300,000 Australians joining the unemployment queues in the coming 16 months, we must ensure that these ex-‘working families', who through no fault of their own are losing their jobs, are adequately protected.

Boost to Emergency Relief
The Greens negotiated a commitment from government to provide $50 million to fund innovative projects that help build the financial capacity of people on very low incomes including the unemployed.

Funds will be available to church, charitable and community organisations including those currently providing emergency relief and financial counselling to:

  • Develop and deliver local No Interest Loans Schemes (NILS) to help people on low incomes to build assets. NILs would finance the purchase of whitegoods, work equipment, cars and items for children.
  • Develop and deliver matched savings accounts which offer dollar matching for money saved by low income earners.

As part of this program, funding will be available to employ people with financial counselling skills.

This will ensure those services benefit from both the financial incentives offered by the chosen scheme and advice on long term management of budgets.

This program would build on the government decision to double funding for Emergency Relief. This decision provided additional funding of $80.63 million over three years ($10.94 million in 2008/09, $34.41 million in 2009/10, and $35.28 million in 2010/11).

It provides funding for local organisations to offer a second tier of emergency relief and financial counselling that helps individuals build assets and economic independence after they have been assisted with initial emergency funding.

The procedures for applying for these funds are yet to be put in place.

Job Creation
The Greens secured a $300 million fund to provide one-off grants to church, charitable, community organisations and local councils for pilot projects that:

  • Provide employment opportunities for local unemployed or under employed people through innovative social projects such as recycling and home maintenance programs;
  • Directly generate local jobs for the people suffering labour market disadvantage through the construction of local infrastructure which improve community amenity; and
  • Help to seed not for profit labour hire and other initiatives which provide opportunities for people with severe barriers to participation including the homeless.

The procedures for applying for these funds are yet to be put in place.

Relaxation of Liquid Assets Waiting Period for Unemployed
The Greens achieved a relaxation of the liquid assets test for unemployment benefits - from $2500 to $5000. This change will cushion the blow for those who are stood down as part of the expected downturn, making it easier for them to keep their homes and transition back into the workforce as the economy recovers.

Mechanism to ensure all employed and students have access to the bonus payment
The Greens gained a commitment from government that it will relax assets test for the unemployed, and ensure students are able to access the bonus payment.

Read more: Greens win support for most vulnerable and unemployed

INCREASE THE AGE PENSION
The Greens secured a commitment from the Government for a raise in the pension in the 2009/10 Budget. This will come as a relief to thousands of pensioners who have been struggling. The Greens have been campaigning for this for years.

The actual amount of the increase has not been specified. It is anticipated that the amount will not be announced until the Budget.

Read more: Greens win support for most vulnerable and unemployed

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