‘Super Ministry’ revolution for IR

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‘Super Ministry’ revolution for IR

The new Rudd Labor Government has taken a revolutionary approach to industrial relations by linking it with the education system and putting both under one Minister, Deputy PM Julia Gillard.

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The new Rudd Labor Government has taken a revolutionary approach to industrial relations by linking it with the education system and putting both under one Minister, Deputy PM Julia Gillard.

Under the new ‘Super Ministry’, education and work, and the laws which regulate the workplace, will be linked in some capacity from early childhood education through school and university to joining the workforce.

In announcing the new responsibilities of Gillard, Kevin Rudd said: ‘We will have within this portfolio preparation for work, participation in work, and of course the laws governing the workplace.’

However Gillard will not be responsible for such a huge task on her own.

Gillard gets help

Joining her in the Ministry will be Brendan O’Connor as Minister for Employment Participation, who will have responsibility for employment services including Job Network, welfare to work and income support programs for people of working age.

O’Connor was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2001 and in 2006 was appointed Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Industrial Relations.

Brendan is the Chair of the Federal Labor Parliamentary Industrial Relations Taskforce which reported on the ALP’s assessment of the impact of WorkChoices on Australian workers.

He was a union official from 1986 to 2001, most recently Assistant National Secretary of the Australian Services Union from 1993 to 2001.

Also assisting Gillard will be Maxine McKew, who as Parliamentary Secretary to the PM will have responsibility for the Office of Early Childhood Education, and Minister for Youth Kate Ellis who will have responsibility for youth policy and student services in higher education.

Move welcomed by business

The move to link education and workplace relations has been welcomed by business organisations. NSW Business Chamber has applauded the decision, saying business has long recognised the inter-relationship between education and workforce skills.

Business needs an education system that is responsive to the wider need for skills across the economy’, said Kevin MacDonald, CEO of NSW Business Chamber.

'Australia currently has in excess of 171,000 job vacancies - each one of these vacancies represents a lost economic opportunity for Australia and its businesses.

‘State jurisdictions have been dragging the chain in areas such as fast tracking apprenticeships and provisions for part-time and school-based apprenticeships. We do need a greater focus in government on simplifying the ability of people to acquire appropriate skills rather than on time based qualifications.

'I am hopeful that in putting these portfolios under the responsibility of the Deputy Prime Minister that real change in this area can be driven.’

Heather Ridout, Chief Executive Australian Industry Group, said Gillard has been given responsibility for two of the biggest issues on the Rudd Government’s agenda: education and workplace relations.

'As the Prime Minister elect has stressed, these two areas are central to good economic management both in the short and medium term,’ Ridout said. ‘Adroit approaches will be very important if the Labor Government’s objectives are to be met.’

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Gillard gets super portfolio - education and IR

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