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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has unveiled a post-pandemic ‘JobMaker’ plan in a bid to revitalise the economy. The plan includes a new committee to look at reforming Australia’s industrial relations system.

The plan consists of several elements, including a state-led overhaul of Australia’s skills and training system, more efficient taxes, less regulation, award simplification, access to finance and more.

Addressing the National Press Club on Tuesday 26 April 2020, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said “Opening up will be harder than closing down. We will have to all retrain, to live and work in a way that creates a sustainable COVID-19-safe economy and society.”

Government Stimulus Packages

Speaking about the government’s stimulus packages, the Prime Minister reiterated that they “must only be temporary”. He also ruled out the possibility of a JobKeeper extension beyond September, explaining that at some point “you’ve got to get your economy out of ICU”.

“You’ve got to get it off the medication before it becomes too accustomed to it,” Mr Morrison said.

Changes to Industrial Relations System

A new committee led by Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter will bring together employers, industry groups, unions and government to chart a “practical reform agenda”, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

It will comprise five working groups, “for discussion, negotiation and, hopefully, agreement”, targeting:

  • Award simplification – “what most small- and medium-sized businesses deal with, with their employees, every single day”;
  • Enterprise agreement making – “we’ve got to get back to the basics”;
  • Casuals and fixed-term employees – “made even more prescient by recent changes through the Fair Work Commission”;
  • Compliance and enforcement – “people should be paid properly and unions need to obviously do the right thing, as must employers”; and
  • Greenfields agreements for new enterprises – “where the new investment will go and the certainty is needed, moreso than ever”.

The committee process is expected to run through to September and “must move quickly”, the Prime Minister says.

“The purpose is simple and honest, to explore, and hopefully find, a pathway to sensible, long-lasting reform with just one goal: make jobs.”

Morrison describes the existing IR system as “not fit-for-purpose, especially given the scale of the jobs challenge that we now face as a nation”.

“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 says.

“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.”

But he adds that employers, employees, business groups and unions have taken a constructive approach to COVID-19’s challenges so far and, “we now need to turn that into cooperation to create even more jobs, especially during this all-important recovery phase”.