Labor’s first bill is to establish Jobs and Skills Australia

Denham Sadler
National Affairs Editor

The new Labor government’s first piece of legislation introduced to Parliament establishes a new statutory body aiming to address the “urgent” skills crisis.

Skills and Training minister Brendan O’Connor introduced a bill on Wednesday morning establishing Jobs and Skills Australia as a statutory body sitting within the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, the first piece of legislation introduced by the new government.

The body will replace the National Skills Commissioner, with accompanying legislation introduced to scrap this body, which was launched in mid-2020 by the former Coalition government.

“The Albanese government has wasted no time and introducing Jobs and Skills Australia will make a real difference. It is a step towards addressing the nation’s skills crisis, contributing to productivity improvements, economic growth and creating more secure and better employment opportunities for Australian workers,” Mr O’Connor said in Parliament.

Minister for Skills and Training Brendan O’Connor

The new body will provide independent advice to the relevant Minister or Department secretary on a range of current and emerging labour market and workforce skills and training issues in order to improve employment opportunities for individuals and help drive economic growth.

It will also lead research and analysis, canvass insights from industry, undertake workforce forecasting and prepare capacity studies for emerging and growing industries, and also consult with state and territory governments.

“Through the use of data, evidence and analysis, Jobs and Skills Australia will play a proactive role in workforce planning. This will include delivering products such as capacity studies for new and emerging industries to help ensure Australia has a pipeline of appropriately skilled workers,” the bill’s explanatory memorandum said.

“This will enable the skills and workforce needs of all participants in the Australian economy to be at the forefront when the government is considering workforce, employment and skills policies and programs.”

Labor is planning to introduce a new bill to establish Jobs and Skills Australia’s permanent functions, structure and governance arrangements following further consultation on these matters.

The new body will replace the National Skills Commission, which was launched by the Coalition in mid-2020. Adam Boyton was appointed as National Skills Commissioner in October 2020 on a five-year contract, but this will now be scrapped.

The new body will have a wider remit to work in partnership with key stakeholders compared with the Commission, the government said, and will have a more strategic focus.

Jobs and Skills Australia’s functioning will be discussed at the upcoming Jobs and Skills Summit in early September. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Treasurer Jim Chalmers will lead the summit, with support from key ministers including Industry minister Ed Husic.

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