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Australia has a new Commonwealth Minister for Schools, Early Childhood and Youth, Peter Garrett. The newly titled portfolio splits school education and higher education. Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced on 11 September that Chris Evans would be her Minister for Jobs, Skills and Workplace Relations. By 14 September, he’d become Minister for Jobs, Skills, Workplace Relations and Tertiary Education. Garrett and Evans will be assisted by Jacinta Collins as Parliamentary Secretary for Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. Garrett inherits responsibility for the as-yet unfinished $16.2 billion Building the Education Revolution program. If education policy has in the past been formed in cabinet, we can now expect the independent members of parliament (MPs) – Rob Oakeshott, Tony Windsor and Andrew Wilkie – to have some influence. Oakeshott, in his maiden speech in 2008, spoke of ‘the critical need for improvements to general standards of education throughout (his) region’ and ‘lifting retention rates within the region.’ Windsor told ABC Radio AM’s Tony Eastley his support for the Gillard minority government ‘puts country Australia in a very, very important position.’ Wilkie – a former Green – has vowed to ‘approach every policy on its merits.’ Speaking of the Greens, Green MP Adam Bandt’s support for the Gillard minority government is critical, and of course the Greens will hold the balance of power in the Senate from July 2011. The Greens want equitable Commonwealth funding for public and private schools, smaller class sizes, more funding for professional development, no performance-based pay and free university education. Peter Garrett and Chris Evans, not to mention the PM, will have their work cut out.