24 Jan 2009

Australia's $4 billion bid to save jobs

7:03 pm on 24 January 2009

The Australian government has launched a $4 billion bid to save the jobs of 50,000 construction workers.

It's going to work with major banks to finance office buildings, shopping centres and other commercial property projects.

The Weekend Australian newspaper says the government will put up $A2 billion and the rest will come from the big four banks - ANZ, Commonwealth, National Australia and Westpac.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced the scheme on Friday night, saying that up to a third of jobs in the commercial property sector were at risk because of weak demand and the tight availability of credit. The sector employs 150,000 people.

The newspaper says the fund, which should be up and running by March, will also be able to lend up to another $A26 billion for commercial property projects, if required, by means of government-guaranteed debt.

Mr Rudd emphasises, however, that the scheme will be structured to minimise the risk to taxpayers. It will only offer loans to companies on commercial terms where there's unanimous agreement between the government and all four banks that the underlying property assets and income streams are sound.