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Gillard takes business on board and plans to establish an accord

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Australian Financial Review chief political correspondent

View more articles from Phillip Coorey

EXCLUSIVE

In accord … Julia Gillard backs the need for consensus on important reforms.

In accord … Julia Gillard backs the need for consensus on important reforms. Photo: Reuters

JULIA GILLARD has heeded the call of business for a return to the spirit of the Hawke government's accord and will establish a new forum to enable opposing groups to come together for the common economic good.

In letters to the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Prime Minister says she will establish a new national economic reform panel.

Its aim will be ''to build consensus for important reforms'' and it will comprise the government, the Business Council and the ACTU, and civil society groups will be asked to contribute.

In her letters, Ms Gillard acknowledges the new panel is a direct response to a call last week by the Business Council president, Tony Shepherd, for a return to the spirit of the 1980s-style accords in a bid to unite political parties, unions and business groups and for them to stop regarding each other as combatants.

''In the days of the accord, different sectors were able to agree on a common purpose and a plan to foster productivity, competitiveness and growth. There is no reason we cannot do this again,'' Mr Shepherd told his organisation's annual dinner.

The business community has grown increasingly unhappy with the government as well as the combative political climate as a whole, believing it is stalling reform and producing bad policy.

In her letters Ms Gillard said: ''I strongly endorse your view of the need for business, government, unions and the community sector to work together to secure Australia's future.''

The accords were a series of agreements negotiated by the Hawke Labor government in which unions agreed to wage restraint in return for indirect financial trade-offs.

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