CEREMONIAL SITTING OF THE FAIR WORK COMMISSION
TO WELCOME DEPUTY PRESIDENT LAKE
MS KARA KEYS, Australian Council of Trade Unions
THE HONOURABLE MS KAREN ANDREWS MP, Minister for Industry Science and Technology
MS THERESA MOLTONI OAM, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
WEDNESDAY, 6 MARCH 2019
DEPUTY PRESIDENT ASBURY: Good morning. Minister?
MS K ANDREWS: If the Commission pleases, good morning members of the Fair Work Commission and representatives of industry, unions and the legal profession. I particularly welcome and acknowledge Deputy President Nick Lake and members of his family on this happy and momentous occasion. The appointment of Deputy President Lake will contribute to the vital role the Fair Work Commission plays in ensuring that our workplace relations system operates in a fair and transparent manner, promoting cooperative and productive Australian workplaces.
Deputy President Lake is highly qualified and will add much value to the work of the Commission. In particular, he will enhance the Commission's contribution to ensuring Australian workplaces are fair and equitable. In a career spanning over 20 years, Deputy President Lake's human resources and industrial relations experience encompasses real world experience in government, manufacturing, oil and gas, banking and finance, mining and the resources sectors. He has impressive professional experience working both domestically and internationally. His diverse background includes experience in managing high profile industrial disputes, enterprise bargaining agreement negotiations, restructuring, change management and acquisition and growth agendas.
Deputy President Lake brings with him an astute interest and experience in matters of equality and diversity. For example, he has led pay equity initiatives in BHP Coal and has ensured that recruitment and promotion processes had a focus on appointing women into non‑traditional work areas such as operational roles in mining. His extensive experience will serve to further bolster the confidence in the Fair Work Commission held by Australian employers and workers.
Under previous federal industrial relations legislation, Commissioners were either appointed as conciliation Commissioners or arbitration Commissioners. However, that distinction has long since gone and members are now appointed to perform a full range of Fair Work Commission functions. All roles are very important and will benefit from your wide‑ranging practical experience in organisations noted for their commitment to best practice. Whether it be conciliating complex general protection applications or being part of Full Bench deliberations, your experience working directly with the business of an employer will be invaluable.
A career which has involved being responsible for the HR function, advising line management and developing and administering employment policies, brings unique practical insights and understandings. It brings experience of the good as well as the bad and the wisdom to determine the right thing to do. Such direct experience in enterprises such as those you have worked for is not a common attribute of members who tend to operate mainly in the IR system rather than mainly within leading businesses.
As an HR practitioner myself in a previous life, I speak from personal knowledge of the importance of those functions and acknowledge the value of your practical experience for the working of the tribunal. The tribunal and the parties who come before you are fortunate to secure your wisdom and experience. The term of Deputy President Lake's tenure is from the date of commencement until he reaches the statutory retirement age of 65 or resigns. The Australian government acknowledges the esteem with which Deputy President Lake is held by the industrial relations and human resources professions, and is confident of the valuable contribution he will make to the Commission now and into the future.
Deputy President Lake, you have a high level of experience in industrial relations and human resources in the public and private sectors here in Australia and abroad, and are regarded as an expert in those fields. As executive director for human resources at the Sunshine Coast Health and Hospital Service, you developed and implemented a highly successful cultural transformation program and significantly improved service delivery and workplace capability resulting in an overall benefit for patients.
With BHP Metallurgical Coal, as head of human resources you successfully and skilfully negotiated a number of complex industrial relations matters, including enterprise bargaining, cases involving bullying and harassment, industrial action, as well as leading shift and roster reviews to optimise productivity at several mine sites. Due to the contestability and challenges of many of these exercises, you were required to work with some of Australia's leading industrial lawyers, to seek their advice and explain the nuances of our industrial system to your line management. Many of those lawyers speak very highly of your astute and practical role in dealing with those complex disputes.
You drove gender diversity in all organisations you have been associated with, through developing diversity strategies that supported business objectives and by gaining support for gender equity initiatives. You hold a Graduate Diploma in labour relations from Melbourne University, along with a Master of Arts in clinical psychology and a Bachelor of Arts majoring in economics and psychology from the University of Sydney.
Your appointment commenced on 7 January 2019. A great responsibility is thrust on members of the Commission. If they are to discharge their responsibilities effectively, of course they require the goodwill, the understanding, the cooperation of the parties, employers and trade unions and, to the extent that it becomes involved, of course the government. I trust that the same goodwill, understanding and cooperation will be forthcoming from all concerned to you as a new member of the Fair Work Commission.
Deputy President Lake, on behalf of the Australian government I congratulate you on your appointment. I convey our goodwill, understanding and cooperation, and wish you well in the exercise of the responsibilities of your office, may it please the Commission.
DEPUTY PRESIDENT ASBURY: Ms Moltoni?
MS T MOLTONI: Thank you, your Honour. If it pleases the Commission good morning, your Honour, members of the Fair Work Commission, Deputy President Lake and your family here today celebrating this important occasion. I also welcome and say good morning to representatives of industry, unions and the legal profession. I would like to show my respects and acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land, and their Elders past, present and emerging.
I am here today on behalf of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in my capacity of chair of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Workplace Relations Policy Committee. It is my honour to acknowledge the appointment of Deputy President Lake and to congratulate him on his appointment to the Fair Work Commission. We all wish to pass on our congratulations to you. In particular, the chief executive of ACCI James Pearson and their workplace relations director Scott Barklamb.
As Scott Barklamb said at an earlier ceremonial sitting, we are also here today acknowledging the role that you have taken on for the community and the importance of the work for this tribunal. Our peers are being given the opportunity, the responsibility and the trust to apply the law of our country in an area as important and key to lives as how more than 12 and a half million of our fellow Australians work, which is no trifling task. The rule of law applied in this tribunal and its predecessors by independent decision‑makers, one of whom the new Deputy President becomes today, has underpinned how Australians work for 115 years. It has created the country we are today.
Our organisation, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, firmly believes that it is fundamentally important that these laws are observed. It cannot genuinely be in the interests of any Australians to see these laws broken or ignored. This misunderstands our nation's industrial relations past, its present and its future Commission members' responsibility to the Australian community, to all those who come before this tribunal and to apply the law as directed by parliament.
With that, I will address the chamber's remarks to the new Deputy President. I met Deputy President Lake a year or two ago. He is a thoughtful and considered man with a great deal of experience across Australian and overseas workplaces. When researching your career, it's hard to find a person with a more diverse industrial relations history, a career spanning almost 30 years - as we have heard from the Minister - across several continents and covering oil, FMCG, banking, mining, manufacturing, health and management consulting, including some consulting work with my company.
Along with this, several graduate and postgraduate qualifications as we have heard, including a Bachelor of Arts majoring in economics and psychology, a Master of Arts in clinical psychology and a Graduate Diploma in labour relations. All of this is a small insight into your unique career in the field of industrial relations. During your career you have been required to navigate several changes of government and countless law changes. Additionally, you have been required to navigate the laws of several jurisdictions.
You do not survive in this industry without being adaptable and a quick learner. A strong ability to navigate through the ever‑changing workplace relations system is a vital key for any member of the Commission. I recognise that this will be a challenge in your new role; a challenge that you will no doubt take with both hands, as you have done so often throughout your career. One Australian Chamber network member, Steve Knott, has requested that I pass on some particular remarks:
On behalf of Australia's Resource and Energy Group, AMMA congratulates DP Nicholas Lake on his appointment to the Fair Work Commission. With over three decades of executive experience, including key senior industrial relations roles with BHP and ExxonMobil, AMMA welcomes the addition of this contemporary business expertise to the workings of the Fair Work Commission. On behalf of AMMA and its members, we wish Deputy President Lake all the very best in his new role.
I also spoke to Stuart Wood QC, who says he knew you well back in the days at Philip Morris where he recalls you were responsible for some very positive industrial relations reform; where you moved from having nine unions to a one union AWU site achieving a great deal of efficiency for the employer and for the unions. The site moved from one that was regularly strike prone to one that had cooperative relationships, a well‑paid workforce and no strikes. The workplace was transformed into a harmonious and productive one. Stuart Wood fondly recalls working for you for three years on and off in various capacities which made a significant mark in his much respected career in workplace law.
While at Philip Morris you were awarded with not only the Chairman's Award, but you were also given a significant role in Switzerland where you worked for a number of years before returning to Australia. After your decade‑long stint at Philip Morris, you took key industrial relations positions in ANZ Bank, Incitec Pivot and Dyno Nobel. Whilst undertaking these roles you were required to navigate cross‑jurisdictional issues, acquisitions and other significant organisational changes. Your position at Dyno Nobel required you to move to the United States and review their healthcare plan, creating a more equitable system and resulting in significant savings for the company.
After your time as vice president of human resources at Dyno Nobel, you returned to Australia to guide BHP through some very turbulent times in its coal mines at BMA. You were required to navigate two years of industrial action while negotiating the BMA central EA. Along with this, you were integral in the difficult job of closing the Norwich Park and Gregory mines, a very tough job in which you were able to successfully navigate industrial action without a slippage in the shutdown timetable. Along with dealing with tough times at BHP you were able to optimise productivity, as we've heard, through creative changes to rosters and centralisation of contractors.
After your corporate career you moved into consulting roles where you provided assistance to several organisations. After undertaking consulting work for the Queensland Department of Health you were offered a role, as we've heard, with the Sunshine Coast Health and Hospital Service. This resulted in the capacity of the hospital doubling and their recruitment of 2800 additional medical staff. Along with this you were required to handle several long‑standing disputes and deal with several investigations into poor conduct; a difficult job in an emotionally charged sector. All these matters led to the need for significant restructures in the human resources department of the hospital, which you were instrumental in implementing.
Throughout your long and unique career in the industrial relations sphere you have been required to balance and manage the expectations of persons at all levels within both large and small organisations. This has given you a pragmatic outlook on how to deal with disputes. The pragmatic outlook is a vital skill for any member of the Commission. I have no doubt that you will flourish in your new role as Deputy President and I wish you all the best.
Deputy President Lake, welcome and congratulations again to you and your family on behalf of the Australian Chamber network, our members, your employer friends and peers, and all employer parties that will appear before you. We wish you well, if the Commission pleases.
DEPUTY PRESIDENT ASBURY: Thank you. Ms Keys?
MS D KEYS: If it pleases the Commission, members of the Commission, guests of the new appointee, I would like to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet; the Turrbal People here on the north side of the river and the Jagera People to the south. Like this institution, the traditional owners and custodians of this land have and continue to play an integral role in shaping our nation. I acknowledge them for this role and pay respect to their Elders past and present.
It is my honourable duty to acknowledge Deputy President Lake and congratulate him on his appointment to the Commission on behalf of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. It is evident by your experience, Deputy President, as outlined by those before me, that you will contribute earnestly to this institution; an institution that has played a critical role in shaping Australia's industrial relations system for more than 100 years. Through this role, a unique role, it shapes the health of our nation because as those of us in this room know and appreciate, industrial relations underpins our economy and the strength of our social fabric.
We face a time of great challenges; a time of technological and global change, a time when income and equality is growing, when the nation, employers, workers and their families face these challenges, as well. For workers and their families access to productive and dignified work is a critical predictor, not just to their material wellbeing but a sense of identity and social inclusion. Thus, the Commission has - as it always has had - a critically unique and important role in balancing the competing interests with a view to the bigger picture to the common good and, importantly, a view to equity and fairness.
Because of this unique role, none of us - regardless of where we owe allegiance or whose interests we represent - can deny the importance of the role of the Commission; the solemn duties of our Commission members and the intrinsic understanding we all have in that we know employers and workers all benefit from fair employment conditions and productive relationships. We know that workplaces where workers are treated with respect and dignity are the ones that flourish and, therefore, the ones that have the most prolific impact on the lives of working people, our economy our society, our country, the health of our nation.
Deputy President Lake, on behalf the Australian Council of Trade Unions I warmly congratulate you on your appointment to this august body and I wish you all the best in the discharge of your duties, may it please the Commission.
DEPUTY PRESIDENT ASBURY: Deputy President Lake?
DEPUTY PRESIDENT LAKE: Good morning members of the Commission, the Minister, Ms Moltoni, Ms Keys. Thank you for your kind words. I would like to congratulate the other newly appointed members of the Commission and extend a warm welcome to members of the State Commission who are with us today. It's not often that one can make a public statement of appreciation to your family in a professional context and I acknowledge and thank my partner Claire and our two children here today, my mother, my brother, who have come from Sydney. Thank you for coming up.
Now, as you have heard, work plays a central role in our lives. It is where we utilise our skills and abilities with others to create and produce services and goods that benefit our community. It gives us a sense of purpose and meaning. That is why the work of the Commission, employment lawyers, unions and HR is so important. We all strive to create and sustain places where we as individuals can bring our whole self to work and engage in activities that challenge as well as sustain us. To be able to provide the systems and structures, the policies and procedures to nurture workplaces in my mind is truly valuable work.
Now, a few of us succeed without the guidance and support of others. Like many of you here, I have benefited from individuals that encouraged, challenged and provided words of guidance; people who have invested in me and who offered assistance and sometimes words of gentle criticism. I started my career in the oil industry, as you heard, as it was emerging in the 80s; a time of heightened disputation and demarcation. The industry, under the guidance of oil industry and union leaders and supported by lawyers - one of whom is here today, Graham Watson - all worked hard to re‑shape the industry with fractious and problematic labour relations into one that had more stable and certain employment relations; to be more productive and engaging in places of work.
I cut my teeth of daily disputes and frequent picket lines, common activities at the oil terminal where I was working. In the first of many disputes I was asked to monitor and walk a picket line that had just been established. It was early evening and becoming dark as I walked past the security guard on my own down that long driveway to what looked like a large and angry mob of workers. It was one of those confronting moments of life. I was quite nervous.
In amongst this large group of workers I saw a familiar face, David, a leading hand whom I'd worked with during the structural efficiency negotiations. I engaged in a conversation about the dispute and gained some real insights into the employee perspective. The angry mob in reality was a frustrated group of employees who wanted to get back to work and not stand around in the cold and the dark. However, there were real and complex issues of demarcation at stake.
That issue, like many, was resolved in a few days of negotiation and some frequent trips to the Commission. It became apparent to me during these disputes that keeping the lines of communication open during difficult times when parties are keenly opposed, is critical. Further, no matter how challenging the circumstances, to maintain compassion, humility and understanding, as when the dispute is over you all had to work together and all disputes do come to an end.
Now, I was given the opportunity to work at Philip Morris by Malcolm, who is here today. We set about reforming a factory that had a troubled history with labour relations; for those that remember, the Gregory and Wheeler v Philip Morris cases. Thank you, Malcolm, for backing me and giving me the scope to stretch myself and others around us. It was during this time that I developed valuable relationships with Graham Watson and Graham Smith, who provided good counsel and assistance.
During the reforming work that we did I asked for some full‑time support from Freehills. I was sent a promising young lawyer who we all agreed could do with some real world experience; young Stewart Wood. He quickly showed his passion and aptitude for labour relations as he worked through difficult disputes and he learnt also to walk picket lines. Since that time we have stayed in touch and I thank him for his wise words and assistance over many years. So another lawyer followed Stuart, an even younger Henry Schein, who brought his own unique form of energy and insights to our workplace. Unfortunately, he couldn't be here today.
Now, as a result of the positive workplace changes in Philip Morris, Malcolm and I were each offered the opportunity to relocate to Europe to work for the international parent organisation; he to the Czech Republic and myself to Switzerland. Now, the practice of labour relations in Europe gave me new insights into how other cultures have their own forms of workplace relations. To sit and work at a negotiating table with representatives from 11 different countries, all with their own languages and unique labour laws, required a high level of diplomacy and understanding. The experience provided me with a rich ground to understand how history and culture shape our thinking about workplaces.
I returned to Australia and after a number of years working in a variety of industries arrived at BHP Coal where, along with Vincent who is here today, we found ourselves in a low and drawn out enterprise agreement. For legal advice I drew on previous relationships down south and was introduced to Mike Coonan, Kirsty, Ian, Vince and Robyn; they all gave me valuable advice and insights.
Now, the EB discussion stretched over 18 months and once again the importance of maintaining relationships with employees and their representatives was reinforced to me whilst looking across the negotiating table at Moranbah Workers Club day after day. When a decision against BHP Coal came down over one of the matters arising from this dispute, I asked Ian and Vince to run an appeal. It was successful and was subsequently tested and upheld in a High Court, and has since been known as the scab case. Thank you, Ian and Vince, for your efforts and advice during that matter and subsequently.
Kevin Hegarty, who was charged with the commissioning and opening of Australia's newest tertiary hospital located on the Sunshine Coast gave me the opportunity to work as a very different environment; public health. It was an interesting transition. He gave me many words of advice and support as he guided me through the workings of the health system, and government processes. What I proposed, given a large number of clinical and operational staff we were going to recruit, was that we should use this movement to introduce drug testing and fitness for work policies.
He wisely guided me from a distance. Despite him knowing it was unlikely that such a reforming piece of work be adopted, he nevertheless helped me shape up the draft policies and procedures. The matter was slowly escalated through the department to the Minister, where the initiative was firmly rejected. I was unsuccessful in that effort, but made lifelong friendships with a number of the senior medical workforce who are here today. Mike and Tania, thank you for your many long conversations that started with, "Nick, in public health it works like this." It was another case of importance of context.
It was during this time that Dan, Victoria and Mick assisted me during the many issues we had. They all aided in my understanding of the landscape that makes public health unique. My experiences here and internationally have provided me with the context and clarity of what fair and productive workplaces look like, and the skills to navigate complex and tension‑filled matters. I commit to holding the high standards of independence and impartiality; to carry out my work in a fair and reasonable manner. I look forward to working with many of you as we all seek to create and sustain places of work that encourage and support employees, and are productive and value creating.
I want to thank the Commission members and staff who have been supportive and helpful during my first few weeks here. It has been greatly appreciated. I feel truly honoured and it's a privilege to be appointed to the Commission. Thank you.
DEPUTY PRESIDENT ASBURY: Deputy President Lake has already taken the oath of office, the oath taken by all members of the Commission; a compact to faithfully and impartially discharge the functions of our office. I invite you all, and we invite you all, to join Deputy President Lake and members of the Commission for morning tea, and I adjourn the Commission.
ADJOURNED INDEFINITELY [9.43 AM]