10/12/2009 - 00:00

Back to the future as Libs change the bench

10/12/2009 - 00:00


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FEDERAL opposition leader Tony Abbott named his front bench earlier this week, giving the country a taste of who he thinks will play the key roles in his attack on Kevin Rudd’s government.

Back to the future as Libs change the bench

FEDERAL opposition leader Tony Abbott named his front bench earlier this week, giving the country a taste of who he thinks will play the key roles in his attack on Kevin Rudd’s government.

One of the most important portfolios under the current circumstances will be climate action, environment and heritage, which are now the responsibilities of Greg Hunt.

Mr Hunt was previously the environment spokesman but was somewhat sidelined under former leader Malcolm Turnbull, who wanted an amended version of the government’s emissions trading scheme and appointed Ian Macfarlane as his chief negotiator.

Mr Macfarlane has been shifted to a less high-profile role as infrastructure and water spokesman, but he is assisted by up-and-comer Cory Bernardi. Mr Bernardi has scored the position of parliamentary secretary for infrastructure and population policy as well as the important role of parliamentary secretary assisting the leader of the opposition.

Two other key appointments reflect the conservative nature of Mr Abbott’s strategy.

Firstly, outspoken National Party senator, Barnaby Joyce, has been promoted to the front bench as the spokesman for finance and debt reduction, the latter being a key issue identified by the previous Liberal leadership.

Senator Eric Abetz also has two key roles. Not only will he be opposition spokesman for employment and workplace relations, an area Mr Abbott seems keen to squabble over with the government, but he will also be handling climate change in the Senate.

A key figure in the Liberal’s reversal on support for the government’s emission trading scheme, Nick Minchin, has been named opposition spokesman for resources and energy. Mr Minchin is leader of the opposition in the Senate, backed up by Senator Abetz.

Among the Western Australians, Julie Bishop has retained the deputy leadership and foreign affairs. Ms Bishop is seen as a big winner from Mr Abbott’s leadership because she was viewed as likely to have faced demotion if Joe Hockey, who has been kept on as treasury spokesman, had won the leadership contest.

Another WA player to retain his role is Senator David Johnston, who is defence spokesman.

Michael Keenan is opposition spokesman for justice and customs and the lower house representative on employment and workplace relations, which is a step down from his previous role as employment and workplace relations spokesman.

A WA player seemingly within Senator Abetz’s area of responsibility is Mathias Cormann, who has stepped up to be made opposition spokesman for employment participation, apprenticeships and training.

Don Randall, who is to face former Labor state infrastructure and planning minister Alannah MacTiernan at the next election, is opposition parliamentary secretary for roads and transport.

Leading climate sceptic Dennis Jensen was apparently disappointed to not get a front bench position.

Chris Pyne is opposition spokesman for education, apprenticeships and training; George Brandis is shadow attorney-general; Peter Dutton, health and ageing spokesman; Warren Truss is responsible for trade, transport, regional development and local government; Kevin Andrews, is spokesman for families, housing and human services; and Andrew Robb is chairman of the coalition policy development committee.

Philip Ruddock is to be opposition cabinet secretary and Bronwyn Bishop will take a new policy portfolio as spokesperson for seniors.

Planning push

THE states have agreed to a federal government demand that they provide long-term urban development plans before receiving funds from the Commonwealth.

The agreement with the states and territories to provide infrastructure funding based on 30-year strategic plans was welcomed by WA chapter of the Urban Development Institute of Australia, which said the move was critical if the country was to meet growing demand for land.

“Sufficient land supply is the key to maintaining housing affordability, particularly in this period of economic growth and record population increases,” UDIA CEO Debra Goostrey said in a statement.

“While the state government has recently initiated some good work in regard to future planning, the criteria that the federal government has laid down will provide the next step – laying out a clear picture for where and when infrastructure and transport will be required.

“One of the major delays to land supply is that infrastructure for services such as water and power or major roads is not always keeping up with the development front.”

New awards

ONE of the sleepers for business is the forthcoming award modernisation process, which is the second element of the federal government’s industrial relations overhaul.

Awards modernisation will partly reflect its name, in that many outdated clauses and concepts in industrial awards will be jettisoned in favour of a new approach, with the government seeking to condense more than 1,500 awards into 122 by the end of the month.

However, the award modernisation process will also embrace potentially thousands of workers who have previously not had to come under an award. There are also likely to be cases where the amalgamation of awards will result in additional complication for some job types.

Furthermore, expanding awards to include the name of default superannuation funds will also change the way business does things.

With so much change under way, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA welcomed news of some changes by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission to the new awards system.

While CCIWA does not favour the overall thrust of the modernisation process, it said it was positive that the AIRC had decided that the miscellaneous award not cover professional employees, such as accountants.

The industry body also said the commission rejected higher penalty rates in the restaurant and catering industry.

“Changes have also been made to the local government industry award to allow greater flexibility in hours worked by full-time and part-time employees,” CCIWA said.

School of thought

THE future of Northam agricultural school Muresk has been in doubt for some time due to a review of the operation by Curtin University of Technology, which runs the facility.

While that might be small beer in the city where, Curtin reckons, most students of agriculture prefer to learn their skills, out in the regions it is considered quite important.

Hence, Nationals WA has pushed for a review of its own.

This week, it named the members of an independent sounding board to report to state upper house member Philip Gardiner.

The members are: Boston Consulting Group adviser and former partner Colin Carter; Muresk former principal Ian Fairnie; Wheatbelt Development Commission CEO Wendy Newman; University of Western Australia professor Ian Reid; CYO’Connor College of Tafe’s John Scott; Farmanco Management Consultants senior consultant Ken Sevenson; and Rabobank state manager Crawford Taylor

Mr Gardiner said his review was on schedule to be completed and delivered by mid-February.



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