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Bold new jobs plan targets IR reform

Part of the 'JobMaker' plan to kickstart the economy and boost employment.
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Bold new jobs plan targets IR reform

Bold new jobs plan targets IR reform

28 May 2020

By Marise Donnolley

An overhaul of the IR system is at the heart of an ambitious 'JobMaker' plan to kickstart the economy and boost employment.
 
Addressing the National Press club, Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the current system as not fit-for-purpose, especially given the challenges posed by COVID-19.
 
"Our industrial relations system has settled into a complacency of unions seeking marginal benefits and employers closing down risks, often by simply not employing anyone, he said.
 
"The system has lost sight of its purpose – to get the workplace settings right, so the enterprise, the business can succeed, so everybody can fairly benefit from their efforts and their contributions."
 
He said Australia's IR system had retreated to tribalism, conflict and ideological posturing. And that had to change.
 
The first step, he said, was to get everyone back in the room "because no one side has all the answers, employees or employers”.
 
To that end, five working groups will be created to focus on:

  • Award simplification
  • Enterprise agreement making
  • Casuals and fixed term employees (made even more prescient by recent changes through the Fair Work Commission)
  • Compliance and enforcement
  • Greenfields agreements for new enterprises

Each group will include employer and union representatives, as well as individuals chosen based on their demonstrated experience and expertise. That will include small businesses, rural and regional backgrounds, multicultural communities, women and families.
 
Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter will lead the process, which aims to create a practical reform agenda to boost jobs and bring the economy “out of ICU”.
 
By September it is hoped the groups will have reached consensus on the five issues.

"It is not beyond Australians to put aside differences to find cooperative solutions to specific problems, especially at a time like this," Mr Morrison said.

"The extent of the damage wrought by COVID-19 on the Australian economy, and the enormity of the challenge we now face to get Australians back into jobs, means the policy priorities for recovery will be different to those in place before this crisis.

"We now have a shared opportunity to fix systemic problems and to realise gains as a matter of urgency to get more people back into work.


Difficult road ahead

The Prime Minister stressed that opening up for business would be harder than closing down.
 
"We will all have to have to retrain, to live and work in a way that creates a sustainable COVIDSafe economy and society.
 
"All of us are in uncharted territory. There will be inconsistencies, there will be frustrations. There will be trial, there will be error. During this time, we can also sadly expect unemployment and underemployment to rise before it falls. Debt and deficits to rise sharply, as costs rise and revenues fall."
 
Mr Morrison said the aim was to find a pathway to sensible, long-lasting reform with just one goal – make jobs.
 
To maximise that opportunity, the government "in good faith" will not pursue a further vote in the Senate on its Ensuring Integrity Bill. However, the Prime Minister reiterated that the government remained committed to the principle that registered organisations behave lawfully on all work sites.

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