The calls come as more than 3,000 jobs were axed by mining giant BHP Billiton, the latest casualty of the global economic crisis.
Unless the federal government intervened between 200,000 and 250,000 jobs could be lost in the next 12 months, ACTU president Sharan Burrow says.
“If we get major companies, business leaders, ourselves, government, in a room and look at what can be done, it just might enable us to tackle this issue far more rapidly,” she told ABC
Ms Burrow conceded it may not stop the financial crisis.
“But it might get consensus about what we can do.”
Bonus payments saw only moderate pre-Xmas spending
Meanwhile, a new survey revealed the federal government\’s $10.4 billion economic stimulus package delivered late last year resulted in only a moderate increase in Christmas spending.
The findings add weight to the federal opposition\’s call for any future package to focus on jobs and tax cuts, rather than one-off payments to families, pensioners and carers.
Research by the Australian National Retailers Association (ANRA), released today, shows people weren\’t prepared to spend December\’s windfall payments in one go.
Instead they used the extra cash to retire debt and ease cost of living pressures.
ANRA chief executive Margy Osmond says consumers are in no mood to spend up big in 2009.
“Gloomy forecasts and the threat of job losses have made Australians wary,” Ms Osmond said in a statement.
“As the government contemplates another stimulus package, the early evidence is that consumers will not spend windfalls in one big bang.”
Most of stimulus \’used to pay debt\’
The latest survey shows mortgage holders spent more of December\’s bonus on Christmas presents and shopping than they\’d expected to, but most of the stimulus package still went towards retiring debt.
In October, 20 per cent of Australians said they would use the handouts to pay off their mortgages.
But in January, just seven per cent said that\’s what they actually did.
Sixteen per cent or respondents said they\’d used the bonus on Christmas gifts, up from the nine per cent who expected to do that in October.
Nevertheless, Ms Osmond says homeowners aren\’t reducing the amount of their mortgage repayments despite cuts in interest rates.
Bonus payment were not wasted: Swan
Treasurer Wayne Swan insists the bonus payments weren\’t wasted.
“The economic stimulus package we brought in prior to Christmas has been absolutely essential to support Australian growth, to support Australian jobs and to support Australian business,” he said on Wednesday.
Business calls for second stimulus package
Business has backed the opposition\’s call for another round of stimulus measures focusing on tax cuts.
“The (second) stimulatory package should focus on tax measures and infrastructure investment,” Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief Greg Evans said in a statement.
“This should include bringing forward personal income tax reductions scheduled for July 2009 for immediate implementation, while the July 2010 cuts could also be brought forward by 12 months.”
The retailers association says the need for further government stimulus activity “is crystal clear”.