O'Dwyer urged to focus on wages growth, IR reform
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O'Dwyer urged to focus on wages growth, IR reform

Business groups and unions will press incoming workplace minister Kelly O'Dwyer to tackle stagnant wages growth and the need for reform of industrial relations rules.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry's director of workplace relations, Scott Barklamb, said the government needed to focus on jobs growth to help boost stagnant wages.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison (right) and incoming workplace minister Kelly O'Dwyer.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison (right) and incoming workplace minister Kelly O'Dwyer.

Photo: Luis Ascui

Mr Barklamb said Ms O'Dwyer understood the challenges facing small businesses, including the need to simplify unfair dismissal laws, which were too complex and bureaucratic.

"We think she as a minister in tackling various areas of superannuation and finance brings a background in good policy that bodes well for the area," he said. "We think she's an energetic and active minister."

Ms O'Dwyer said she wanted to focus on the unemployed and the employed because the "best form of welfare is providing every Australian with the chance to get a job".

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"This means jobs not just in the cities but also in our vital regions," she said. "I also want to focus on the jobs that people create for themselves and for others in small business.

"A productive and flexible workforce is a key plank in building a stronger economy. But more importantly, creating the framework for a productive working environment between employers and employees is critical for our nation to grow and prosper."

Finance Sector Union national secretary Julia Angrisano.

Finance Sector Union national secretary Julia Angrisano.

Photo: Supplied

Julia Angrisano, national secretary of the Finance Sector Union of Australia, urged Ms O'Dwyer to tackle slow wages growth, the finance sector's large gender pay gap and reform of the Fair Work Act. She said many of her members had not had a pay rise in years.

"Kelly O'Dwyer had to be dragged kicking and screaming to believe there was a need for a finance sector royal commission," Ms Angrisano said. "Let's hope that she isn't slow to realise that Australians deserve a pay rise and that the [industrial] rules are broken for working people in all sectors.

"Enterprise bargaining is broken for finance workers and we know that if we are going to be serious about banning conflicted pay models then single enterprise bargaining will never deliver that."

Denita Wawn, the chief executive of Master Builders Australia, welcomed the elevation of industrial relations to cabinet and was hopeful Ms O'Dwyer would persist with pushing to get legislation, including a bill to protect the integrity of registered organisations, passed in the Senate.

"It is important that IR is in cabinet and Kelly understands issues regarding how IR has a significant impact on productivity within the economy given her previous portfolio role," Ms Wawn said.

"We now ask the new minister to prioritise unfinished business of the government in terms of the royal commission [into trade union governance and corruption]."

The Australian Resources and Energy Group (AMMA) also welcomed Ms O’Dwyer's appointment as minister for jobs, industrial relations and women, saying she had a strong knowledge of the resources and energy sectors and workplace issues.

“Her engagement and support of AMMA’s government-funded national gender diversity initiative, the Australian Women in Resources Alliance, has supported the industry in lifting its promotion, attraction and retention of women in resources and energy careers," AMMA chief executive Steve Knott said.

“As stated by Australia’s 25th prime minister, John Winston Howard, at AMMA’s Centenary Gala Dinner earlier this month, reforming our workplace system is ‘unfinished business’ that is critical to the international prosperity of our nation."

Australian Council of Trade Unions president Michele O'Neil said unions were concerned that Ms O’Dwyer, a former banker, "brings a big business approach to the industrial relations portfolio".

“Her approach to the structural inequalities facing women at work has been piecemeal, cosmetic and has placed the needs of big business over those of women and their families. There has been an unwillingness to engage on the level required for meaningful change,” she said.

Labor's acting Workplace spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said Ms O’Dwyer had delivered a big tax cut for the banks but had "never put the interests of working people first".

“She spent years trying to protect the banks by arguing against a royal commission, but did absolutely nothing to protect workers from having their penalty rates cut," she said.

Former workplace minister Craig Laundy said he told Prime Minister Scott Morrison he no longer wanted to serve in the Coalition ministry.

"I would like to thank Scott Morrison for his offer to continue to serve on the front bench," he said. "I have not taken this decision lightly, but the significant challenges we faced last week took a massive toll, both emotionally and physically, hence my decision to take a step back, and consider what my future holds," he said.

"As the federal member for Reid, my priority in parliament has always been to advocate for my community, and I look forward to spending more time working for my constituents."

Anna Patty is Workplace Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald. She is a former Education Editor, State Political Reporter and Health Reporter. Her reports on inequity in schools funding led to the Gonski reforms and won her national awards. Her coverage of health exposed unnecessary patient deaths at Campbelltown Hospital and led to judicial and parliamentary inquiries. At The Times of London, she exposed flaws in international medical trials.