General Manager's overview

Head shot photo of Fair Work Commission General Manager Ms Bernadette O'Neill.

Over the past year the Fair Work Commission has continued to refine our processes and procedures to ensure we are flexible and can adapt to the changing needs of the community.

Like all public service agencies, we are conscious of delivering genuine value and reducing unnecessary cost. Our focus is on improving productivity and effectiveness by investing in technology, learning and development, and by consulting with stakeholders to better understand their needs.

This year we recorded a small funded surplus, primarily because several Commission Members resigned or retired and were not replaced. However, the changes we are making will ensure we continue to deliver high-quality services within the resources provided by government.

Against this backdrop it gives me great pleasure to provide an update on some of our key achievements for 2014–15 and our focus for next year.

Key performance indicators

The Commission is pleased to report that this year we have met or exceeded all of our key performance indicators as set out in the Portfolio Budget Statements, largely by making changes to the way we work.

We have reduced many of the manual tasks our staff are required to do; freeing them up to do more high-value work, such as taking part in our relief conciliator program. This has not only improved our productivity but also assisted with staff engagement and development.

Future Directions

This year many of our staff have continued to deliver on our Future Directions change initiatives. These are detailed in full later in this report but I wanted to highlight a few of these programs.

Day in the Life of the Commission

This year we conducted a client satisfaction survey, A Day in the Life of the Commission, to assist us to understand whether we are meeting community expectations. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive but did highlight the need for ongoing improvements to our website.

The website issues had already been identified through a comprehensive usability review undertaken this year. Over the next 12 months we will make changes to the website to reflect the review findings and the feedback from this survey. The report from the Day in the Life survey was published on 18 August 2015.

Australian Workplace Relations Study

The Australian Workplace Relations Study (AWRS) is the first employer-employee linked research of this kind conducted in Australia since 1995. The Commission published the AWRS First Findings Report in late January, with the full data set available from June 2015.

In June we also conducted a three-day conference and workshop where a series of papers using the AWRS data set were presented. The research provides a valuable resource to academics and others developing public policy and is no doubt the most comprehensive data set of its kind available today.


This year our staff have been involved in some significant project work, including the 4 yearly review of modern awards and the agreements and general protections pilots, all of which are discussed later in this report. These projects have assisted Commission staff to extend themselves, develop their skills in new areas and improve service efficiency.

Regulatory compliance

We have also continued to make some significant changes to our role as regulator of Australia's federally registered organisations.

Over the last five years the improvement in registered organisations lodging their Financial and Annual Returns on time has enabled us to focus on the quality of these materials and take action when the appropriate information is not provided.

This year I have finalised Federal Court proceedings against former Health Services Union (HSU) National Secretary Mr Craig Thomson and HSU Victoria No.1 Branch.

I have also commenced proceedings against the:

  • Australian Nurses and Midwifery Federation WA Branch, and
  • Musicians' Union of Australia.

This work will of course continue and in 2015–16 we will also begin to report on our performance against the Regulator Performance Framework, which came into effect on 1 July 2015.

Reporting requirements

The Commission is well-placed to meet the new reporting and accountability requirements under the Public Governance Performance Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act).

Shortly after the end of the reporting period, we finalised and published our Corporate Plan (PDF) and we are well-placed to meet our requirements under the new Regulator Performance Framework. We will report against both of these next year.

In addition, we have undertaken a significant audit of our risk management processes and finalised a new Risk Management Plan.

Focus areas in 2015–16

In 2015–16 we will continue to keep the focus on the needs of tribunal users, including small business, to ensure that our information and processes are appropriate and useful. As the shift towards more individual matters continues, our task is to help parties navigate what can be unfamiliar and complex processes in making or responding to applications to the Commission.

Signature of Bernadette O'Neill

Bernadette O'Neill