Federal Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson has nominated his frontbench, elevating little-known Victorian backbencher Tony Smith to the key education portfolio.
Deputy opposition leader Julie Bishop will become the new spokeswoman for industrial relations, pitting her and Mr Smith against Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Dr Nelson said it was unbelievable that Ms Gillard was looking after both IR and education and he would not follow the same path.
“We believe very strongly that education and workplace relations should be quite separate portfolios,” he told reporters.
“It beggars belief that education is an area that can be managed simultaneously with a major and important portfolio area such as industrial relations.
“It's also very important to us that education in helping to drive Australia's future, economically, culturally and socially demands and requires a spokesman and a shadow minister in its own regard.
“For that reason Julie Bishop, as the deputy leader of the opposition will be taking on employment, business and workplace relations.
“That will give a wide cross-section of portfolio responsibility to Julie Bishop.
“Tony Smith will be responsible for education, apprenticeships and training.”
Joe Hockey, the former workplace relations minister, will take on the job of opposition spokesman for health and ageing.
He will also lead opposition business in the House of Representatives.
“I have every confidence that Joe Hockey will certainly be taking it up to (health minister) Nicola Roxon,” Dr Nelson said.
Former parliamentary secretary Greg Hunt was named spokesman for climate change, environment and urban water.
“(He) has intellect, energy, ability and a deep knowledge when it comes to climate change and water issues and will be specifically taking up those issues on behalf of all Australians,” Dr Nelson said.
Ms Bishop said her new portfolio of employment, business and workplace relations reflected the fact that business would need a strong voice in the new parliament.
“Business and the private sector are the job creators and the wealth creators in this country and business needs a voice in this parliament” she said.
“Already we have seen worrying signs that the Labor party will cave-in to the unions.”
She said union bosses were already threatening businesses from going about their lawful business in employing people.
“I haven't heard from either Kevin Rudd or Julia Gillard to rein in the union bosses as they make these threats to Australian businesses,” she said.
“Business, and particular small business, are the engine room of the Australian economy and we will be doing all we can to ensure the businesses of Australia continue to prosper, that unemployment continues to trend down, that there are more jobs available for Australians, particularly young Australians.
“That will be our focus.”
Dr Nelson said the shadow ministry with parliamentary secretaries totalled 45, including 10 women.
He said he had asked former immigration minister Kevin Andrews to form a team to advise him on issues of federation and possible constitutional reform.
“The most significant constitutional issue facing our country is how do we get the three tiers of government to work effectively?” Dr Nelson said.
“How do we make sure that for this century in particular that the responsibilities carried by the three tiers of government are appropriate to the challenges of the 21st century?”
Dr Nelson also confirmed the Liberal party and The Nationals would continue as a coalition in opposition.
“We are a coalition. (Nationals leader) Warren Truss and I on behalf of our respective parties have signed an agreement,” he said.
“We will be, as an alternative government, a coalition.
“We will present to Australians over the next three years the shape of government that we will present to them at the next federal election.”
Dr Nelson said the new front bench choices the coalition had made combined experience with youth and energy and vision.
“It's extremely important that we represent an alternative government which not only has ideas but draws on the experience of those who have served in government whilst at the same time promoting those who, whilst having served in the parliament are well and truly ready with ideas, vision and energy to present a viable, attractive alternative for Australia,” Dr Nelson said.