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Fed: Rudd tells Turnbull to get out of the way

06 Feb 2009 5:35 PM

Kate Hannon, National Political Editor

CANBERRA, Feb 6 AAP - Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has told Malcolm Turnbull to "get out of the road" and stop holding up the government's $42 billion stimulus package.

The government increased pressure on the coalition on Friday as it prepared to work out a deal with crossbench Senators to get the nation building and jobs plan through the Upper House next week.

"Only Mr Turnbull stands in the road," Mr Rudd told a media conference at Parliament House.

"Therefore I would say to Mr Turnbull and the Liberal party, get out of the road of the government getting on with the job of nation-building and supporting jobs at a time of national economic emergency."

Mr Rudd and his senior ministers briefed more than 200 private sector business organisations, community and welfare groups, and unions who had gathered at Parliament House to hear details of the plan.

The package includes $28.8 billion of infrastructure spending and $12.7 billion in one-off handouts for low and middle income earners, parents of school children, farmers and students.

The briefings coincided with a second session of the Senate inquiry into legislation enabling the stimulus package.

Treasury officials will give evidence to the inquiry for a second time when it reconvenes on Monday when the ACTU, Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), retailers and various economists will also appear.

The government wants a rapid rollout of the infrastructure projects to modernise 9,500 schools, insulate homes, fix road blackspots, regional roads and improve rail safety to support 90,000 jobs.

But it faces having to make amendments if it wants the support of the Greens, independent Nick Xenophon and Family First's Steve Fielding.

Greens leader Bob Brown is seeking enhancements which means "greening up" the package with projects like city cycle lanes to create local jobs.

Senator Xenophon is yet to reveal what he wants but Senator Fielding says the government should divert $4 billion to try to prevent the forecast 100,000 job losses by June this year.

He says he wants Treasury to look at a `get communities working' scheme over the weekend aimed at creating jobs for the "forgotten 100,000".

Treasurer Wayne Swan said the government was prepared to talk to the Greens and the crossbench senators "in a constructive way" about their concerns, including worries low income earners could miss out on bonus payments.

But he warned that if people "muck around" with the package in the Senate, they will delay the bonus payments and infrastructure investment.

Support from the minor parties was not guaranteed which was why the Opposition had to change its mind and support the stimulus package.

"What Malcolm Turnbull is doing is playing with fire and playing with people's lives," Mr Swan said.

Mr Turnbull stuck to his guns on Friday and said Mr Rudd was giving drunken sailors a bad name with the plan which would saddle every Australian with an added $9,500 in debt.

"We are facing economic challenges that's true. Yes, the government should act and have an effective economic stimulus but it must be one that works, that gets the maximum bang for every tax payers buck," Mr Turnbull said.

Mr Rudd again attempted to shift blame for the coalition's position on internal wrangling over party leadership.

He said the construction industry had told the government they were "desperately concerned about builders losing their jobs now because they have no confidence that new projects are flowing through".

"What's standing in the road of those projects beginning is Mr Turnbull," Mr Rudd told reporters.

AAP keh/jlw/mo