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Fed: More job cuts as govt and opposition brawl over stimulus

By Kate Hannon, National Political Editor
26 Feb 2009 7:02 PM

CANBERRA, Feb 26 AAP - The federal government has been accused of creating panic after a senior minister said no one's job is safe.

There was more bad news on Thursday with commercial property manager Lend Lease announcing it would cut 340 jobs in Australia, a day after Pacific Brands said it would axe 1,850 positions.

The opposition and the government accused each other of talking down the economy as they brawled over whether the economic stimulus packages were working to stem the tide of job losses or creating new ones.

Former Woolworths chief executive Roger Corbett called on the opposition, which tried to block the $42 billion stimulus package in the Senate, to stop trying to stifle the government's attempts to stimulate the economy.

Asked in a radio interview whether anyone's job was safe, Industry Minister Kim Carr replied: "I wouldn't say anyone's job is safe, even your's."

Senator Carr later told a Senate estimates committee he had chosen his words poorly.

"Jobs and employment around Australia are a paramount concern of this government and that's why we are focusing on supporting jobs across the Australian economy through this global recession," he said.

In question time, Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull again attacked the government's stimulus efforts, saying they had failed to make any impact on jobs.

"This relentless talking down the economy is destroying confidence, frightening workers and their families and making matters much worse," Mr Turnbull said.

Mr Corbett told a NSW government jobs summit on Thursday the opposition's tactics, as well as the divisions between the two sides, were "very, very counter-productive" in the economic climate.

"I would like to call on the opposition here in NSW and the federal people to pull together to close this gap because speed is of the essence," he said.

More than 6,500 job cuts have been announced this year already.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made another visit to the Canberra suburb of Fyshwick on Thursday, this time to a ceiling insulation warehouse to announce a fast-tracking of access to the $3.9 billion energy efficient homes program, which is part of the $42 billion stimulus package.

Householders in up to 2.7 million homes will not have to wait until July 1 to apply for free ceiling insulation and solar hot water heater rebates.

Mr Rudd said that giving access to the program now would create jobs and do something "real" for the environment.

Asked about Senator Carr's comment, Mr Rudd said Australia and the economy would emerge more resilient from the global recession.

"We have, as a government, hope, optimism and confidence for the future of the Australian economy, but based on an economic strategy to see us through the crisis," he said.

He repeated his taunt that the opposition's reaction to the latest jobless figures was "to pop the champagne corks".

"The alternative is clear ... the Liberal Party and the National party have a political strategy to take political advantage of the crisis."

But in more bad news, outgoing Telstra chief executive Sol Trujillo indicated the telco would also be cutting up to 2,000 jobs this year.

He said a five-year target of 12,000 job cuts under his stewardship had almost been met with 10,143 jobs gone, with one more year to go on the plan.

"I think that there is more that will come naturally," Mr Trujillo said on Thursday.

"We do a lot of contracting, we do a lot of other work, in terms of our transformation, and a lot of that work will go away."