The Government and the Greens have agreed to amendments to the $42 billion economic stimulus package, Australian Greens Leader Bob Brown said today.
"We have improved this package to create thousands of green jobs in communities across Australia," Senator Brown said.
"These involve approximately half a billion dollars and will create thousands of local green jobs and provide greater assistance to unemployed and low-income Australians."
"For the first time ever, a national government is moving to apply energy efficiency standards to future housing, bringing Australia closer to American and European best practice. This will lead to cheaper, greener and more comfortable housing for vulnerable Australians.
"Our amendments provide a big environmental and social dividend. There is a multi-million dollar package for refurbishing Australia's heritage buildings and the biggest ever commitment to bikeways.
"We recognise the government's stimulus package is important to deal with the financial downturn. These amendments are modest in comparison to the whole package but are large in terms of delivering a better dividend for taxpayers," Senator Brown said.
"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," Senator Brown said.
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Greens stimulus agreement
To provide $400 million to fund these projects without increasing expenditure and the national debt, the tax bonus payments will be reduced from $950 to $900.
The agreement includes:
• $200 million in grants for services and job creation projects run by community organisations and local governments.
• An extra $50 million to assist low income earners and unemployed people.
• Relaxation of the liquid assets tests for people who lose their jobs and seek government assistance-from $2500 to $5000.
• An assurance that all low-income earners, including students, will have access to the bonus payment.
• $10 million for bioremediation and revegetation trials in the Lower Murray-this will involve green local jobs creation. To the last hour we sought the transfer of more water downstream but the Minister adamantly opposed it.
• Re-opening the $500 million program for strategic local jobs-creating projects to smaller local councils who have not applied before.
• A further commitment to increase the aged pension in the May budget.
• $40 million for bikeways, for an estimated 700 local jobs, to reduce traffic congestion and provide healthy transport options.
• $60 million for job-creating projects for Australia's natural and built heritage-for example, historic buildings and national parks.
• $5 million per year funding, in the budget, for Australia's Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre in Melbourne and an assessment towards upgrading this vital centre to a global coordinator of wild fire research.
• Increased funding for the Australian Bureau of Statistics in the May budget.