Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will meet with business and industry leaders on Friday to thrash out further ideas to protect the economy against the global financial crisis.
The Sydney meeting comes as global share markets took another beating, with Wall Street posting its biggest drop since 1987 overnight, sending the local share market reeling.
There were also significant falls in Britain, France and Germany of between six and seven per cent as investors feared the troubled US economy and global credit crisis would drag the world into recession.
The S&P/ASX 200 share index ended 6.7 per cent lower, a drop of 287 points.
“Falls on share markets and commodities markets reflect a general concern that the global economy is slowing rapidly,” Mr Rudd told parliament.
“That of course has implications for jobs.”
His comments came as Ford said it would slash a further 450 jobs from its Victorian operations before the end of the year.
Ford’s chief executive Marin Burela blamed the global economic crisis and recent poor sales for the cuts.
Ford has now cut 1400 jobs in Australia over the past 15 months, and 40,000 jobs worldwide in that period.
Rudd said business leaders had welcomed the government’s $10.4 billion economic support package announced this week, and that he, Treasurer Wayne Swan, and Assistant Treasurer Chris Bowen would meet with them tomorrow.
“We will take whatever further action is necessary to ensure the long term health of this economy and to help Australian households on the way through,” he said.
But he again refused to divulge figures that formed the basis for the government’s decision to spend half of the $21.7 billion budget surplus on the economic support package.
Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull repeatedly pressed the prime minister for a response during question time.
But Rudd again pointed to a string of reports forecasting the economic growth outlook, albeit made prior to the intensifying meltdown in financial markets in recent weeks.
“What I said yesterday was the government had before it the budget forecast, those from the RBA and, of course, those that where outlined by the IMF’s world economic outlook for growth, all of which had numbers in it with a two in front of it for calendar ’09 or financial ’08-09,” Rudd said.
“At a time when the global economy is going backwards at a pace of knots, this level of stimulus is absolutely necessary and is responsible and it should obtain genuine bipartisan support.”
A further update will be released in next month’s mid-year budget review.
Turnbull earlier said the opposition was not opposing the package, but it did want to see forecasts for growth and inflation on which the package was based, and what impact it would have on interest rates.
“We haven’t been able to get a straight answer to any of those questions,” Turnbull told reporters in Canberra.
“They’ve made the announcement now, they’ve clearly made it based on economic information and advice, so the advice is clearly available to the government so it should be available to the public.
“The arrogance of this prime minister is breathtaking … this is the height of Mr Rudd’s contempt for parliament.”