Howard says IR top priority, Abbott stays

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Howard says IR top priority, Abbott stays

Federal Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott has retained his portfolio in the new Coalition Government, paving the way for immediate further IR reforms.

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Federal Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott has retained his portfolio in the new Coalition Government, paving the way for immediate further IR reforms. He also becomes Leader of the House, in charge of Government business in the House of Representatives, a responsibility held by his predecessor in the IR portfolio, Peter Reith, who has left politics.

Abbott also becomes Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service. In that capacity, Abbott will pick up responsibility for the Remuneration Tribunal and public sector remuneration policy.

Announcing the new ministerial line-up this afternoon, Prime Minister John Howard reiterated the Government's commitment to further IR reform and said introducing the package of IR reforms pledged in the election campaign (see 255/2001) would be a 'very early priority'.

While he hinted that amending Regulations accompanying the Workplace Relations Act would be first up, he said already announced IR reforms were the main priority of the incoming Government.

He shrugged off a question about whether the Government would be 'open to negotiations' on the reforms, and said the legislation would give new Opposition leader Simon Crean the opportunity to show himself free of 'the shackles of the union movement'. The Ministers will be sworn in on Monday.

Earlier this week Abbott - who became Minister in January (see 18/2001) - signalled his intention to work on new Regulations accompanying the Workplace Relations Act, after a full bench of the Federal Court found they were invalid (see 121/2001) because of an exclusion period of 12 months for casuals before accessing unfair dismissal remedies.

The Australian Hotels Association protested, saying employers would be reluctant to hire casuals, and Abbott reiterated the Government's intention to exclude casuals from unfair dismissal remedies. He said he expects no trouble from the Senate in passing the new Regulations, as he felt the Government had a stronger mandate than before.

Labor's front bench was announced yesterday by new leader Simon Crean, and portfolios are expected to be announced on Sunday. Former IR spokesperson Arch Bevis withdrew from the Shadow Ministry earlier this week (see 294/2001).

 
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