26/05/2020 - 12:48

Morrison tries new IR approach

26/05/2020 - 12:48

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Renegotiating agreements with state governments to fund training and moves to simplify the awards system will be part of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s new economic strategy, while a bill designed to ensure trade union legal compliance has been junked.

WA ministers Michaelia Cash (left), Mathias Cormann and Christian Porter (right), recently pictured, are playing key roles in Scott Morrison's economic strategy. Photo: Gabriel Oliveria

Renegotiating agreements with state governments to fund training and moves to simplify the awards system will be part of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s new economic strategy, while a bill designed to ensure trade union legal compliance has been junked.

Speaking to the National Press Club today, Mr Morrison said he would push for a more centrally controlled approach to the training sector.

The federal government currently provides $1.5 billion of untied grants to the states, he said.

Mr Morrison cited the Diploma of Nursing as one example of inconsistency.

In 2017, the diploma received $19,963 of subsidies per student in Western Australia, more than double the level of Queensland.

“For prospective students, the large number of choices that they face for qualifications can be bewildering and overwhelming,” Mr Morrison said. 

“Compounded by a lack of visibility over the quality of training providers and the employment outcomes for those courses.

“There are over 1,400 qualifications on offer and almost 17,000 units of competency.

“There is also substantial variation in fees for students depending on which state they are in.”

This complexity led students to pursue university qualifications instead, he said.

Mr Morrison said the government would better link funding to projections of skills needed, increase consistency between jurisdictions, implement performance monitoring and coordinate funding.

On workplace relations, he said Christian Porter would lead working groups with employers and trade unions to collaboratively change the system.

Targets will include simplifying the award system, enterprise agreement changes, treatment of casual and fixed-term employees, enforcement, and greenfields agreements for new enterprises.

The working groups will report by September.

“The working groups will either reach something approaching a consensus on issues or they won’t,” Mr Morrison said. 

“But we’ve got to give it a go. 

“Participation in the groups is being invited without prejudice to their positions.”

The government also dumped its Ensuring Integrity Bill, in what it called an act of good faith.

The bill had faced an uncertain future after earlier iterations were rejected in the Senate.

That bill was designed to improve enforcement of laws for unions and employer groups.

The government has previously said it would reduce the cost of building infrastructure by up to 30 per cent.

Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Tania Constable said the package would support a more productive, flexible minerals industry.

“The government’s commitment to targeted and cooperative workplace relations reforms will support new and existing jobs by making businesses more productive, responsive and competitive,” she said.

“Extending the duration of greenfields agreements to cover the life of projects will encourage new minerals projects, as investors will have greater certainty about employment conditions and projected labour costs.

“The current four-year maximum for greenfields agreements is out of step with the realities of major project work in the resources sector, which can extend beyond four years. 

“If parties to greenfields agreements can determine longer timeframes that suit their particular project, they can avoid disruptions and additional costs at critical stages of construction when production is ramped up.

“Simplifying awards and improving enterprise bargaining will allow businesses to innovate, adapt quickly to changing market conditions, create new jobs quicker and pay higher wages.”

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