Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James to be replaced
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Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James to be replaced

The head of Australia's workplace watchdog, Natalie James, has lost her bid to be reappointed for a second term, with the Turnbull government announcing a new Fair Work Ombudsman on Friday.

Ms James, who was appointed by Bill Shorten when he was workplace relations minister in 2013, had recently signalled that she had hoped to be reappointed for a further five years.

Sandra Parker has been named as Australia's new Fair Work Ombudsman.

Sandra Parker has been named as Australia's new Fair Work Ombudsman.

Photo: Department of Jobs and Small Business

But Workplace Minister Craig Laundy on Friday announced Ms James would be replaced by Sandra Parker, a long-serving public sector official and current deputy secretary at the Department of Jobs and Small Business, following a merit-based selection process.

"[Ms Parker's] distinguished public service career, and extensive experience in complex environments including policy, regulation and service delivery roles, make her an exceptional candidate for the position," he said.

Mr Laundy said Ms Parker was an outstanding fit for the office of the Fair Work Ombudsman's important role of "promoting harmonious, productive and co-operative Australian workplaces".

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On Friday, Ms James, the outgoing Fair Work Ombudsman, congratulated Ms Parker on her appointment.

"I have known and worked with Sandra for some 15 years and have enormous respect for her as a leader and a dedicated and professional public servant," she said.

Ms James said it had been an "honour and a privilege" to serve as the ombudsman for the past five years.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James won't serve a second term.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James won't serve a second term.

Photo: Andrew Meares

"I thank the talented, innovative people of the Fair Work Ombudsman for their endless commitment and creativity in supporting compliance with workplace laws throughout Australia," she said.

"I wish Sandra and the agency well in this critical work."

Mr Laundy thanked James for her "exceptional work" during her five-year term.

He said she had taken a "very proactive approach" to ensuring workers were protected and received their lawful entitlements.

"She has made a significant contribution to the workplace relations landscape in Australia through educating employees and employers on their rights and responsibilities," Mr Laundy said.

Recently, Ms James has drawn criticism from trade unions for launching legal action against individual maritime workers for taking unlawful industrial action.

"The agency has targeted working people with legal action relating to long-resolved industrial disputes, even as record wage theft continues unabated," a spokesman for the Australian Council of Trade Unions said on Friday.

"We hope that this appointment marks the beginning of a fresh chapter for the office of the Fair Work Ombudsman."

Australia's largest employer groups on Friday welcomed the selection of Ms Parker.

"This is an important appointment, as the Fair Work Ombudsman is one of the world's most powerful and effective labour law compliance and enforcement bodies," Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief James Pearson said.

"Its work impacts on employers and employees throughout Australia – particularly in small business."

Innes Willox, of the Australian Industry Group, said employers had worked closely with Ms Parker over the past decade under Labor and Coalition governments, and "in all our dealings we have found her to be highly professional, competent and fair".

"We look forward to working with Ms Parker over the years ahead in this new role," he said.