A pathway to sensible, long-lasting reform – the Federal Government's 'JobMaker' agenda

COVID-19 Employment & Safety

In brief 3 min read

In a briefing to the National Press Club on 26 May 2020, Prime Minister Scott Morrison outlined the Federal Government's 'JobMaker' agenda as a key aspect of its plan for economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Key takeaways

Significant industrial relations reform

The Prime Minister flagged significant industrial relations reform, describing Australia's current system as 'not fit for purpose' in the face of the scale of the jobs challenge that the nation faces. He stated that reform is necessary so that enterprises can succeed and all participants can fairly benefit from their efforts and contributions, without the widespread tribalism, conflict and ideological posturing that is seen today.

In order to chart a practical reform agenda, the Federal Industrial Relations Minister, Christian Porter, will lead a time-bound, collaborative process with employers, unions and industry groups. This process is expected to run until September 2020.

As part of this process, the Industrial Relations Minister will chair five working groups to deal with the following key areas:

  • simplification of modern awards;
  • enterprise agreement making – to 'get back to the basics';
  • casuals and fixed term employees;
  • compliance and enforcement – unions need to do the right thing, as do employers; and
  • Greenfields agreements for new enterprises.

In a gesture of good faith, the Government has confirmed that it will not pursue a second vote in the Senate on its Ensuring Integrity Bill, although the Prime Minister hastened to caution that it maintains zero tolerance of unlawful union activity, particularly in the construction sector.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions Secretary, Sally McManus, has said that unions welcome the collaborative plan and will participate in good faith.

A renewed focus on skills and training

The Prime Minister also foreshadowed changes to skills and training, to enable more targeted training in response to real-time data on skills shortages. The Government has embarked on a series of skills organisation pilots, to enable the human services, digital technologies and mining industries to better design training systems to meet their needs.