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TRANSCRIPT OF PROCEEDINGS
CEREMONIAL SITTING TO MARK THE
CENTENARY OF FEDERATION
AUSTRALIAN INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS COMMISSION
TUESDAY, 5 JUNE 2001
JUSTICE G.M. GIUDICE, President
VICE PRESIDENT I.J.K. ROSS
VICE PRESIDENT A.W.D. McINTYRE
JUSTICE A.J. BOULTON, SENIOR DEPUTY PRESIDENT
JUSTICE P.R. MUNRO, SENIOR DEPUTY PRESIDENT
SENIOR DEPUTY PRESIDENT J.I. MARSH
SENIOR DEPUTY PRESIDENT C.G. POLITES
SENIOR DEPUTY PRESIDENT I.R. WATSON
SENIOR DEPUTY PRESIDENT A.M. HARRISON
SENIOR DEPUTY PRESIDENT S.J. WILLIAMS
SENIOR DEPUTY PRESIDENT J.M. ACTON
SENIOR DEPUTY PRESIDENT L.E.C. DRAKE
SENIOR DEPUTY PRESIDENT D.A. DUNCAN
SENIOR DEPUTY PRESIDENT B.J. LACY
SENIOR DEPUTY PRESIDENT M.G. O'CALLAGHAN
SENIOR DEPUTY PRESIDENT R.N. CARTWRIGHT
SENIOR DEPUTY PRESIDENT L. KAUFMAN
CHIEF COMMISSIONER COLEMAN
SENIOR JUDGE JENNINGS
PRESIDENT P.L. LEARY
COMMISSIONER G.R. SMITH
COMMISSIONER J.C.W. LEWIN
COMMISSIONER C.J. HARRISON
COMMISSIONER J.W.L. SIMMONDS
COMMISSIONER P.A. LAWSON
COMMISSIONER M.A.G. GAY
COMMISSIONER D.A. HOFFMAN
COMMISSIONER E.R. HODDER
COMMISSIONER K.J. BACON
COMMISSIONER D.B. FOGGO
COMMISSIONER R.S. JONES
COMMISSIONER J.G. HOLMES
COMMISSIONER W.D. BLAIR
COMMISSIONER L.N. HINGLEY A.M.
COMMISSIONER A.L. CRIBB
COMMISSIONER B.J. EAMES
COMMISSIONER R.A. REDMOND
COMMISSIONER H.M. CARGILL
COMMISSIONER A.P. LARKIN
COMMISSIONER J.J. O'CONNOR
COMMISSIONER D.M. WHELAN
COMMISSIONER E.A. WILKS
COMMISSIONER B. DEEGAN
COMMISSIONER G.S.G. GRAINGER
THE ASSOCIATE: Ceremonial Sitting of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission to mark the Centenary of Federation.
JUSTICE GIUDICE: This ceremonial sitting of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission has been convened for the purpose of marking the Centenary of Federation and, in particular, to recognise the role of the Commission and its predecessors in the history of the Commonwealth. A number of the Presidents of State industrial authorities are sitting with us and in the court room there are also present many members of State industrial authorities who are also Members of this Commission and a larger number of former Members of this Commission and of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Mr Paterson?
MR PATERSON: May it please the Commission. All at this ceremonial sitting know that it is a 100 years since the introduction into the Commonwealth Parliament of the first Bill to establish a national industrial institution and legislative framework. The attempts to achieve this aim were not surprisingly fraught with challenge and political difficulty. Between 1901 and 1904 two Prime Ministers resigned over attempts to secure the passage of legislation, including the first Labor Government in Australia and, I understand, the first Labor Government in the world, under the then Prime Minister Watson. And when the legislation was eventually passed in late 1904 it was done by a coalition of free traders and protectionists.
The initial challenge of getting the legislative framework enacted was divisions over the powers to be exercised. Divisions over the powers to be exercised by this Commission and its predecessors have continued throughout its history and remain today. This Commission and its predecessors represent one of the first and perhaps most enduring national institutions established as a result of Federation. The origin of the original Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court was the perceived need to ameliorate conflict between capital and labour, that had reached extreme heights during the 1890s.
Political liberals thought that there had to be a better way and sought to both prohibit strikes and lock-outs and provide a means for collective labour grievances to be addressed, which they sought to do through conciliation and arbitration by a specialist court. The nature of the better way raised bitter division. The attitude of the majority of the private sector to the original court and its successors has always been somewhat ambivalent. On the one hand, employers have generally sought to restrict the power and activity of the Tribunals and on the other hand have regularly sought to use the Tribunals, to their own advantage. Thus, employers and employer associations frequently make application to this Commission for remedies and relief, for example, to deal with industrial action, for demarcation disputes, to have an award simplified and modernised, and so on. This is perhaps at times overlooked. Employers expect that these sorts of applications will be dealt with fairly and expeditiously.
Trade unions are probably the main source of formal applications and invariably they seek additional benefits for employees, or restrictions on the activities of employers and on the way in which they conduct their relationships with their employees. Many of the union claims are and have been wildly unrealistic, and positively dangerous to the interests of the private sector, and to the jobs of ordinary Australians. The Commission is commonly caught between these claims, and the adverse reaction of the private sector, and has to produce workable, sensible determinations as a result of at times protracted and perhaps too often rushed proceedings.
The landmark Harvester judgment sought to set wages on the basis of a formula for assessing needs. Never mind that the formula was crude and rudimentary; over 80 years of arbitration have never developed a workable replacement formula. We all know that as such a formula is simply not possible and that all that the Tribunal can do in these circumstances is to look at all the available indicia and draw a general conclusion. Now, perhaps more than ever before, the basic assumptions of the system are under challenge from the private sector, influenced as it necessarily has to be, by the necessity of making the private sector more productive, competitive and efficient, and labour market regulation is, of course, one of the many forms of regulation that is subject to regular scrutiny to ensure that these important goals are met.
The removal of the protective barriers advocated by the original architects of the legislative framework have increased the imperatives for a review of the system. And when we talk of the system and labour market legislation, we are unfortunately not talking about a single, coherent, integrated, well understood system. Since the establishment of 1904 of the Federal system of conciliation and arbitration, this has sat, often uncomfortably, with State systems, with many of the early difficulties experienced by employers and others, remaining today. And it is not just the industrial relations system that we must contend with, but the complex and overlapping array of legislative regimes that govern the relationship of employer and employee.
As recently emphasised by his Honour the President:
What is of a real concern, however, is the potential, some may say the fact, for discretionary decisions to be made by individual judges or arbitrators which have no consistent theoretical basis either because they are made in different statutory contexts or because the discretion afforded by the law is too wide.....different statutory contexts might lead to different results in the same factual context.
It is unfortunately true that there are many instances where the parties to an employment relationship are unable to say with confidence that particular conduct will have definite legal consequences or will result in a particular form of relief.
The uncertainty generated by the mixture of laws which impact upon employment relationships in this country constitutes an erosion of our freedoms and impacts on the quality of our society. Laws at State and Federal level which ostensibly have the same purpose are often quite different in their effect.
The potential for different outcomes in similar factual situations is widespread. To the extent that the potential for inconsistent treatment is avoidable, the situation is quite simply unfair.
For many years the primary focus of the Industrial Relations Tribunals was the settlement of disputes, both real and contrived, and there was always a tension between the need to fulfil this function, and the need to take account of the consequences of its decisions. It is true to say that many in the small business community (and we need to remember that almost 95 per cent of all businesses in Australia have a turnover less than $1 million per annum), that many in the small business community have no real understanding of the nuances and subtleties of our industrial relations system.
Understanding the motivation behind the creation of the artifice of ambit and responding appropriately when served with a log of claims, is not at the forefront of their thinking. But they all know something of the system and rightly or wrongly many of them fear it, and the potential it has to harm or constrain their business. They are not practitioners of the IR trade. They do not understand all of its elements. But increasingly they are the constituency that we must all find a way of serving, giving them the opportunity to operate, to compete successfully, and to grow, free as much as possible, from the interference of those outside their workplace.
In recent years policy makers, including this Tribunal, have concentrated on enterprise level labour relations, and on direct relations between the employer and the employee. This has necessarily brought about a change in the role of the Tribunal, which now acts more and more as a facilitator. To a greater and greater extent, labour relations are being conducted through workplace agreements, both collective and individual. This process of decentralisation and individualisation is something which is strongly supported by employers.
ACCI's own formal labour market policy, developed in the early 1990s after considerable debate amongst most of Australia's most important employer associations, is for a system which limits arbitration to intractable disputes or certain individual grievances and focuses instead on bargaining about a small number of core minimum standards. We will continue to pursue that policy under governments of all political persuasions. While the policy debate is important, the debate about the actual impact on the private sector of various decisions that this Commission makes is crucial.
This debate will continue and at times we will pursue the interests of the private sector, not to the exclusion of all other interests, but having regard to the fact that the private sector is the source of the Australian standard of living and Australian jobs. ACCI has also been concerned for a long time about the co-existence of Federal and State jurisdictions with the inevitable conflicting requirements placed upon employers.
ACCI has campaigned and will continue to campaign for the harmonisation of the legal frameworks for labour relations through appropriate measures being taken. In this context we note and endorse the recent remarks of His Honour the President:
Our industrial laws must be rationalised as must the number of courts and tribunals exercising jurisdiction.....so far as possible, overlap between jurisdictions should be avoided.
ACCI and its antecedent organisations have participated in every major industrial proceeding before this Commission and its predecessors for decades. We have been observers of very substantial change in legislative framework and process, change in economic circumstances, and change in political circumstances.
We have appeared before the widest array of Commission members, past and present. I, and many of my colleagues have fond memories of proceedings past, and some not so fond. The changes to the Commission, to the operating environment, and the views of the parties who come before the Commission have been evolutionary and gradual. Notwithstanding the views and desires of some, the changes have never been too radical.
We and those we represent will continue to argue for further change, for greater flexibility for the parties principal, to take greater ownership of their relationship. No doubt the political cycle will continue to influence the nature and pace of change as it has done since 1901. We must keep at the forefront of our minds and our endeavours, the realisation that the burden of the problems of overlapping, complex, inconsistent, legislative regimes and decision making processes fall most heavily on those with fewer resources - the individual employee or the relatively small employer. We must seek a long term sustainable solution to this and we are committed to this task.
If the Commission pleases.
JUSTICE GIUDICE: Ms Burrow.
MS BURROW: Your Honours one and all, if it may please the Commission, I make this submission to an institution that for almost 100 years has shaped working lives. 1901 marks the introduction of the first Conciliation and Arbitration Bill into the newly-established Parliament of Australia. The vigorous debate that ensued resulted in an outcome that has meant that Australia has enjoyed a unique system of arbitration and conciliation. This system has represented the fundamental commitment by this nation to fair play. Often today called the independent umpire, our research shows that the Industrial Relations Commission enjoys the support of more than 80 per cent of Australians.
In fact, 81 per cent of Australians support the fundamental right to collective bargaining. This is non-party political support including 95 per cent of National Party supporters. In pollster language, bargaining, conciliation and arbitration are all majority Australian values. We know that following the first Court of Arbitration established in New South Wales, my home State, in 1901, other States followed suit in setting up similar tribunals, with the new Commonwealth Government establishing the Arbitration Court in 1904 to deal with intra-State disputes. Thus since 1904 the operation of conciliation and arbitration has seen Australian unions essentially agree to balance the need for autonomy and free bargaining with the ability to participate in the system.
Although over the decades unions and workers may have from time to time been concerned about the restraints put on them by the Commission, they rarely if ever chose deregistration with its consequent lack of access towards an arbitration to underpin decent outcomes for their members. Overall, unions are passionate in their defence of the place of this great institution. Now, the Industrial Relations Reform Act in 1993 was a watershed and changed some of the practices we have been used to. For the first time Australian workers and their unions have access to free collective bargaining on an enterprise basis.
That is, agreements could not be refused by the Commission because of concerns that they might flow on to other workers, the so-called public interest test, although prior to the Reform Act, workers could bargain for over-award payments. These were generally not legally enforceable and industrial action taken in support of such claims was unlawful at common law and could also be subject to a bans clause being inserted into the relevant award.
The ability to bargain freely was accompanied by provision for the taking of industrial action that was protected from legal action under the common law or in relation to bans clauses and other statutory sanctions. This brought Australia into line with international standards, but preserved the strength of the arbitral system. Following the election of the Howard government in 1996, the legislation further reduced the powers of the Commission, a move opposed by the ACTU. Although enterprise bargaining has had difficulties for many unions, not least in terms of the resources it requires, we do not expect or want to turn back the clock. The ACTU does however wish to have AWAs abolished to make the law more balanced and to bring Australia into the international mainstream.
We note that the Labor Party has indicated through the private Members Bill introduced last year by Kim Beazley, that in Government it would require employers and employees to negotiate in good faith and give the Commission the powers to make orders pertaining to such. The Bill also sought to restore arbitral powers to the Commission to restore the Commission's ability to arbitrate any industrial matters in awards. So what is significant about this, is that in 2001 the labour movement is again advocating for appropriate powers, including arbitration, to be vested in the Commission.
Unions recognise that there is a tension between the right to free collective bargaining and the existence of compulsory arbitration, but in the interests of some equity and fairness for working Australians, particularly those without significant bargaining power, an appropriate balance between the two must be found. This balance would marry the best of the Australian vision of 1904 with the international standards of 2001. So within the walls of this institution, rich industrial and social history has been made.
I stroll through four judgments, very briefly, and I pay my respects to those learned folk who brought them down because I cannot do them justice. But if we just take these four judgments in summary, then I think they provide certainly for me a sense of the continuing role and relevance of both the institution and the values and principles it stands for. Of course the minimum wage, also referred to by Mr Paterson, in 1907 was set by the historic Higgins Harvester judgment from which so much wage history has flowed. While reflective of the patriarchal society when men were considered to be the bread winners, the case, nevertheless, set a wage that was deemed to be adequate to provide for the needs of a family. The minimum wage in Australia in 2001 is characterised all too often by the Government and the employers dismissing notions of need, the consequence of which is that the poorest paid workers bear the burden of economic slow down or contraction.
Australia is developing an American style working poor. Hundreds of thousands of low paid households are struggling to afford the basic necessities of life. We have noted research that has shown us that 1 in 5 poor Australians now live in a family where wages and salaries are the main income source. It is unacceptable that having a job in Australia is no longer a guarantee against poverty and that the numbers of working poor in Australia are growing. So 100 years on, in one of the richest countries in the world, working people are again struggling for fundamental wage justice. Perhaps a dose of Sir Richard Kirby's conciliation mastery might well bring us to achieve some measure of commitment across the parties to resolution of the fundamental Australian value of a fair minimum wage.
Then consider the 8-hour day, and what a magnificent achievement it constitutes in Australian labour history, providing a world first, far ahead of its time. In 1947 the Arbitration Court, after two years of hearings, accepted the ACTU claim for a 40-hour week. This built on decades of struggles by unions for what we call today reasonable hours. 8 hours work, 8 hours leisure, 8 hours rest.
Yet ask any Australian worker today about work related issues and hours will be in the priority list. Working families are struggling to balance work and family responsibilities. In 2001 Australia works amongst the longest hours in the OECD. Only the Czech Republic, Mexico, Korea and the United States work longer hours. More than 25 per cent of Australians, the second largest group in the OECD nations, work more than 50 hours a week. So in 2001 the ACTU has again lodged an hours case with the Commission to address these issues.
And finally if we look at equal pay, there are two judgements here I just very quickly want to reflect on. In 1965 equal pay for Aboriginal stockmen. This judgment was principled and courageous. It was condemned by many. Yet it was a proud moment in Australian history. And one that was actually staked in this very place. In 2001 all too many Aboriginal community councils, local government entities, are forced to conduct work on rates below minimum wages under the CDEP scheme. While we are not in opposition to this program, we believe that there has to be an attempt to set a fair wage for hours worked and in this context the ACTU aspires to have a decision from this Commission sometime later this year or early in 2002 in regard to the matter of a CDEP award.
In regard to, of course, equal pay for women, then we take great pride in the success of women workers. I might add some things have not changed all that much in a 100 years. There is a few more of you up there but only one sister on this Bench. I am sure that will change in the 21st Century and the 50 per cent rule that the unions championed would not be a bad idea for all such major Australian institutions.
Despite the small piece of levity, can I say that the equal pay decision was historic and women have taken great pride, as indeed have our male comrades, in a decision that more than three decades ago set another great matter of equity right or so we thought. However, the unions in 2001 are forced to recognise that pay equity still eludes us. Women make up the majority of the low paid and still occupy greater numbers the lower end of the pay scales across all industries.
21st Century Australia must face the fact that overall 65 per cent of women earn less than $700 a week compared with 46 per cent of men. This is not assisted, of course, by the erosion of the relevance of the award wage rates. So this is a challenge that the union movement will take on, particularly led by, of course, the women in the union movement; again, in the context of 2001 and 2002.
On the subject of rights for women, we must also recognise that now 27 per cent of the workforce is employed as casual workers. This means that job security, given the majority of those employed under the casual classification are women, is a critical issue. In this context I would on this occasion, somewhat informally I know, congratulate and thank the Commission in regard to their judgment last week pertaining to parental leave for casuals.
This is an historic decision for two reasons. It is a fundamental guarantee of job security, particularly for women who wish to have a child and now know that having given 12 months of service, they can take up to 12 months leave and return to work. But it is also an historic decision because the dignity of this decision was underpinned by a fair measure of consensus between the parties. Perhaps this is a challenge for the 21st century in regard to other issues. So in conclusion, working Australians and hence the Labor movement have always supported an egalitarian vision enhanced by a guarantee of a fair share of the nation's wealth and safe and dignified working conditions.
We also see, of course, in terms of our ambition, a fair share of the nation's wealth balanced by the guarantee of a decent social wage. And while that is unfortunately to some extent not in your purvey nevertheless we are incredibly committed as always to essential guarantees of free health and education along with child care, aged care and public housing. These services, such as they are, are provided by Government and therefore are about fundamental life guarantees. As such these issues do of course influence the decisions of this Commission.
These issues remain union priorities and can I say to you in the context of the 21st Century this place, a place of conflict resolution, has presided over the employment relationship and thus much of the essential fabric of our working lives. And for your contribution to that, and that of your forebears, on behalf of working Australians, I thank you.
JUSTICE GIUDICE: Mr Herbert?
MR HERBERT: If the Commissions please. Much has been said about what was in the mind of the constitutional draughtsmen at the time of Federation 100 years ago. Certainly they would have been influenced by the long political debate about whether the colonies should allow free import of goods, particularly from one side of the Murray River to the other. Certainly too they would have been influenced by the memory of the massive strikes and lock outs of the 1890s. This was when the colonies first established their own industrial arbitration procedures.
So it was no surprise that the States, in drafting the constitution creating the Commonwealth Parliament, placed significant restrictions on the industrial relations power yielded to it. It was a very different Australia then. The economic imperatives were different. We really did live off the sheep's back and we decided to erect an impenetrable protective barrier around our emerging manufacturing industries.
We decided, 100 years ago, in favour of a uniquely Australian system of industrial relations built around the principles of conciliation and arbitration. The States, reluctant as they were, surrendered their powers to the Commonwealth only where industrial disputes extended beyond one State. But the overriding approach agreed at the time was to settle disputes through conciliation first then compulsory arbitration. Justice Higgins summed it up with these words:
The process of conciliation with arbitration in the background is substituted for the rude and barbarous process of strike and lock-out. Reason is to displace force; the right of the State to enforce peace between the industrial combatants, as well as between other combatants; and all in the interests of the public.
Prophetic words, I might say, in the light of where we are today. The new system encouraged the combatants, as Justice Higgins called them, to form and register representative bodies with accompanying rights and responsibilities. The Australian Industry Group is one of those representative bodies. It was known as the Iron Trades Employer's Association of New South Wales and you can see, as the name suggests, Ai Group was built on very sturdy foundations.
It is also of relevance to this ceremonial sitting that Ai Group, in the name of its predecessor organisation, the Iron Trades Employer's Association, holds registration certificate number 1 in New South Wales. It is dated the 22 February 1902, but I must acknowledge, however, that the Commission records show eight unions did file for registration three weeks earlier than us. Throughout the ensuring century no area of law, except perhaps tax law, has been subject to more legislative amendment than in industrial relations.
Similarly, there have been thousands of decisions which have shaped the processes of the system. Elements like ambit logs and the web of awards woven around the scope of coverage ascribed to the representative bodies to which individuals or companies could conveniently belong.
Many decisions stand out. Some for the influence they had on the living standards and employment conditions we Australians now enjoy. This should never be underscored, as it has set us apart from most of the developed world in that we have had a tribunal system, which has dispensed justice and fairness in setting wages and standards of employment through a process which was essentially conciliation and arbitration.
It is a process which has survived wars and depression, times of boom, bust and confrontation and periods of accord. As I have said it has been a process which is uniquely Australian. Other decisions over the years have influenced the shape and workings of the industrial relations system itself. None was more significant than the Boilermakers Case in 1956, which separated out the judicial powers from the arbitral powers of this honourable Commission.
Reflecting on this constant change, which, throughout the century has been a feature of Australian industrial relations, it is apparent that you cannot adequately prescribe, or legislate to accommodate all the emotional, social and economic factors which lie behind industrial relationships. No one appreciated this more than His Honour Sir Richard Kirby, who said, in his annual report of 1971:
I feel it my duty -
to report my strong opinion based on my experience as a Judge of the Old Court and as a President of the Commission for its first 15 years, that in the long term a reduction in strikes can only be brought about by an improvement in industrial relationships and that this is far more likely to arise from changed attitudes of the organised employers on the one hand and organised trade union movement on the other, than from mere changes in Acts of Parliament.
We do well, when we wish to assess the present and the future, to look at the past. Certainly, in the MTIA days during the sixties and the seventies, industrial behaviour warranted the concern which Sir Richard Kirby expressed. That was an entrenched era of turbulence for two or more decades. Much of it I concede was brought upon the parties themselves by failing to take advantage of the full potential of the system, preferring to operate within the narrow parameters of arbitration.
However, I am pleased to record that a smoother road, in the long journey towards what Justice Higgins called "a new province of law and order" emerged slowly in the last quarter of the century. The settlement of the Metal Trades Award in 1971 by Commissioner Hood, through a process we called "collective conciliation", was the important first step. The emphasis gradually swung away from confrontation to what the Act then prescribed among its chief objects, namely to promote good will in industry and to encourage conciliation with a view to amicable agreement, thereby preventing and settling industrial disputes.
The era which followed Hood was described by some as MTIAs hey day. We built strong and enduring relationships with the trade unions. We proposed and agreed the terms of a "Compact" with the unions embracing 16 significant commitments about industry policy, productivity, exports, training and best practice. We supported the Accord process and we set on a path which we called "managed decentralism" through which the responsibility for fixing wages and conditions would reside primarily with companies and their employees at the enterprise.
As far as MTIA was concerned our whole strategy for achieving an internationally competitive industry, rested upon the acceptance at the enterprise level, of the concept of "mutuality of interests" between the management and their employees, in place of conflict. Fostering this mutuality of interest has, for two decades and remains today, as Ai Group's key objective.
Reflect back, for a moment, on Australia only 20 or so years ago. It was a closed economy. Union membership was about 50 per cent, wages were set centrally, shops were closed on weekends, outdoor cafes were banned. The Australian dollar was fixed, few travelled and most kids left school at the age of 15. All of these aspects of our lives and more have not just been reformed, but transformed over this period. It would not be putting it too highly to suggest that our whole way of life has been turned upside down. It is impossible to contemplate a country that has undertaken more widespread reform than Australia over this period, but we still question whether we have done enough.
As to the industrial relations system, the question posed and still debated is whether we should persevere with what has been a particularly Australian approach born a century ago, along with a fortress Australian mentality or do we need a generational change in the system. Australia is now one of the most open economies in the world. There are few protective barriers. We no longer live off the sheep's back. Capital is mobile, it searches out where the costs are lowest, or where the market access is best, or you can tap into the most attractive environment on offer.
Markets generally are over supplied, so there is little pricing freedom and in these circumstances I might venture to say it is easier to keep inflation in check. In this new environment there are clear performance measures. The rate of economic growth is one such measure. An ability to endure external pressures, like we did during the Asian contagion, or in the face of the havoc being wrecked upon the IT sector are other measures of economic durability. Unemployment and living standards are also key measures of a country's success, everyone striving to lower the first and raise the latter.
When you apply these performance measures to Australia at this point in time, we have, as a nation, performed quite well. But with the new millennium now upon us, it is not a time for complacency. Never before has the world economy been so dynamic. We are in an info-technological revolution moving much more rapidly than the industrial revolution. Other countries which compete with us are not standing still and most of them have a greater critical mass than Australia, more horsepower and many developing countries are fast catching up with the biggest and the best.
So, the question is, in this new and emerging environment, where unemployment remains too high, can we tolerate the idiosyncrasies, the warts and the imbalances in our present IR system? Has the time been reached, 100 years on, that all States should hand over their IR powers to the Commonwealth? Should we pass over the conciliation and arbitration power and develop more direct legislative intervention by use of the Corporations or other powers?
Should we seek to stamp out the adversarial nature of the current system and when genuine disputes do arise substitute mediation for a fee and encourage recourse to civil courts if mediation fails? Should we curtail the rights and responsibilities of representative bodies by giving them no particular standing in the system, or circumvent our freedom to associate by prescribing compulsory bargaining fees?
Today Australia is in a period of transition. Understandably pressure for change to our IR system is unrelenting coming from all the players, including the political parties. The worst outcome for Australia would be to wake up one morning to learn that the system has been emasculated by the force of one ideology over another. As I have said, industrial relations requires a mutuality of interests.
In this country, we can make informed and deliberate choices about our future and this should not ever be forgotten. We can influence the structure and composition of our industry. We can influence our relative strengths as a nation. We can set directions for Australia, including those for industrial relations. We are not impotent, as some might suggest, in the face of global forces. Our capacity to make choices is important and real, however, the easier options often involve trade-offs which have adverse long-term consequences for growth and jobs.
It has been an unfortunate characteristic of this period of reform that a "winner takes all" feel has emerged about it. Rather than the art of compromise or mutuality of interests, unless we win it all we are seen to have lost. Someone's loss has become someone else's gain. Someone's sacrifice tends to be seen through the prism of someone else's greed. Representative bodies, such as the Ai Group have a responsibility to advocate what is best for Australian industry and in doing so to recognise that a satisfied community is a satisfied work force; a healthy community is a healthy work force; an educated community is a well educated work force.
Industry's interests and those of the community in which it operates are not mutually exclusive, but mutually dependent. Business leadership must recognise the legitimacy of these needs, as much as the community groups need to understand and accommodate the pressures on industry. This does not have to be and should not be to the exclusion of high quality education, health care, new technology and infrastructure. So, when shaping our industrial relations system over the next 100 years, for a new Australia, for new manufacturing, let us not forget that we live in a community, not an economy.
What the IR system should deliver to Australia is a fair go all round, a phrase which I believe is attributable to the late Mr Justice Sheldon of the New South Wales Commission. It has become, I am pleased to observe, a test applied throughout the industrial jurisprudence of New South Wales and indeed Australia. It is almost trite to say that the system must provide a fair go all round, but there will be no shift in polarised views if the system is not seen to deliver fairness and balance and protection of the public interest.
Australia should strive for a system which is far less adversarial. The emphasis must be to encourage agreed outcomes in the work place. In my experience employers do not want to sue their employees to force compliance, rather the process to resolve genuine disputes must be simple, trusted, inexpensive and easily accessible.We certainly do not need six or eight competing systems in a country with a working population of just over 8 million people to deliver such outcomes. Embodied in the notion of fairness and balance is the issue of the breadth and depth of the safety net which underpins the system.
The key question here is can fairness and balance best be delivered by the politicians exercising their power to legislate or should there be a trusted and respected Tribunal to dispense a fair go all round? I favour the latter course, not because of emotional ties to the past nor to a particularly Australian approach. As your Honour the President has acknowledged, our system as it currently stands is a hybrid system onto which pieces have increasingly been grafted.
A 100 years of Federation has come and will soon go. Throughout the past century the Commission has played a significant role which we in the Ai Group, as a major customer, are only too pleased to recognise. It has demonstrated a resilience and an adaptability and has quite adequately protected the public interest. It is to the future that we must now direct our attention. As we start the 21 Century the circumstances of Australia are starkly different to what they were at the beginning of the 20th Century. When another 100 years pass, one can only hope that whatever kind of industrial relations system we have, whatever kind of Tribunals then exist, there is mutuality of interests and we treat ourselves to a fair go all around.
If the Commission pleases.
JUSTICE GIUDICE: Dr Shergold?
DR SHERGOLD: If it may please the Commission, I am honoured to have this opportunity to speak on this historic occasion before yourself, your Honour the President, Members and former Members of the Commission, and distinguished guests. The Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business, the Honourable Tony Abbott, MP, wishes to extend to you his sincere apologies for not being able to be present here today because of his parliamentary duties.
For me the celebration today has a particular poignancy. I came to this country 29 years ago as a Labor historian. Initially my main areas of research centred on the living conditions of British and American workers at the turn of the century, but fortunately I was afforded the opportunity to study and to teach Australian Labor history. I seized that chance with gratitude.
My own research came to focus on a period long before Federation. I read and wrote on the working life of convicts, a background which unkind observers believe has equipped me perfectly for my present job as Secretary of the Department of Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business. Preparing to participate in this important commemoration I have found it easy even now to remember the key element of the colonial histories that followed. The long fight for the 8-hour day; the parliamentary struggles to regulate working conditions in mines and factories and workshops; the great strikes of the depressed 1890s; and the growth and often tense relationship between the industrial and political wings of organised labour.
As an historian versed in the economic history of Britain and the United States, this was relatively well known territory although the development of the Labor movement in the Australian colonies had its significant and and exciting particularities. But with Federation the facade of easy familiarity dissolved. Australia's path diverged from that of its British and American counterparts and so too did my ability to understand this new creature. I struggled as an outsider to comprehend this new world, a world symbolised most clearly by the establishment of a legislative framework, a legal system to settle industrial disputes and within a few short years effectively to establish a basic wage for unskilled workers.
It was increasingly apparent to me that since its foundation in the first decade of the Australian Federation, the Commission and its predecessors played an enormously significant role in the history and the development of this country. It was a Labor history that I had not encountered previously. To me the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the establishment of the Arbitration Court and in particular the influence of Justice Higgins' Harvester decision of 1907 symbolised the 'differentness' of Australia's history.
As an historian, to use a redolent phrase of another student of convict labour, Robert Hughes, it represented 'the shock of the new'. From that perspective it is altogether fitting that the Australian Industrial Relations Commission should hold a ceremonial sitting to mark Australia's Centenary of Federation. And it is an extraordinary honour to be able to participate. I do remember, of course, that its birth was delayed until 1904. As someone who, on occasion, has been critical of the considered speed by which the Commission has undertaken its duties, I welcome the Commission's foresight on this occasion in getting in three years early.
As an institution the Commission has been served by a succession of men and women dedicated to advancing the living standards and employment opportunities of the people of Australia. Two aspects of the Commission over the years have been its resilience and its almost chameleon-like ability to adapt to maximise its relevance to changing social, legal and economic circumstances. This has contributed to its longevity and suggests that it has the potential to remain a key national institution way into the future. To that I will return, albeit far too briefly.
Let me reflect on the past. Let us remember that this distinguished institution's unbroken contribution to a century of social progress and economic growth in Australia can be traced back ultimately to the Federation debates of the 1890s and the enactment of the Australian Constitution in 1901. The bitter industrial confrontations of the 1890s made it apparent to the participants in the Convention debates that a mechanism was needed to prevent and settle industrial disputes extending beyond the boundaries of any one of the colonies which were to become the States of the Federation and which could not, except through Federal legislation, be subject to effective control and resolution.
It was that consensus of opinion that led to section 51(35) of the Australian Constitution, which in 1901 conferred on the new Federal Parliament power to enact laws with respect to conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State. The establishment of an actual Federal mechanism to promote industrial peace required the enactment by the Commonwealth of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in 1904 which, in turn, reflected a further significant act of co-operation.
Federal parliamentarians came together to support tariff protection for local industries in exchange for the creation of a Federal Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The establishment of the Court provided a legal mechanism for resolving disputes and establishing minimum rates of pay and conditions of employment for employees and industries operating in more than one State. The Court was to exercise both judicial and arbitral powers, that is, it could make an award specifying in wages and conditions of employment and it could enforce such awards, interpret their meaning, and impose penalties on parties to the award who did not comply with the award's terms and conditions.
As an historian seeking to come to terms with this strange animal, I was glad to discover that my surprise mirrored that of contemporary observers. The introduction of compulsory conciliation and arbitration by elected legislatures was seen as a distinctly Australasian experiment. Observers from Britain and the United States came to observe and to report on its operations in New Zealand and Australia.
It is true, of course, that their initial enthusiasm caused by the putative discovery of Justice Higgins' new province of law and order gradually faded once it became clear that in practice strikes and lock-outs had not been eliminated by the new arrangements. But in the eyes of the Australian people the Court was henceforth prized as an independent umpire operating to ensure an appropriate balance between the interests of employers and employees. Such is still the case. The landmarks of the Court and Commission's changing role help to define Australia's 20th Century.
The decision of Justice Higgins on the normal needs of the average employee regarded as a human being living in a civilised community; the growing influence of the Court's decisions in effecting changes in the nation's wage bill; the independence exerted by the Court in the Great Depression of the 1930s when it focussed on an economy's capacity to pay; the complete remodelling of the Federal legal infrastructure as a result of the 1956 Boilermaker's case, conferring conciliation and arbitration powers on the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, now of course the AIRC, and placing judicial powers in a separate court; the extension of award coverage to Aboriginal pastoral workers in the mid 1960s; the equal pay cases of 1969 and 1972; the abandonment of wage indexation and inflexible centralised wage principles after 1987; and the increasing focus on agreement making at the enterprise level since 1992 - these events and many others framed the economic and social history of our last century. During that hundred years the Australian labour market and the nature of its industrial relations have changed fundamentally. In spite of a lingering faith in some quarters at the ability of Canute to command the waves of globalisation to stop beating against our shores, it is now clear that protectionism, so important in the political trade-offs that underpinned the birth of the Commission cannot protect ourselves, cannot isolate our industry from international competition.
Year by year the traditional bases of industrial labour - manufacturing, mining and construction - become less important as employers of labour. A fast changing service sector, in which small businesses provide much of the motor force for economic growth, by leaps and bounds increases its absolute and relative significance. Participation in the labour market in aggregate terms has increased markedly. But so too has the movement of men and women in and out of paid work. Education and retirement last longer. And workers are far more likely to move between permanent, part- time, casual and unpaid employment during their working life. Indeed the categories of paid employment and the separation between employer, self-employed and employee are becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish. Levels of union membership have significantly declined. Equally important, the trade union generally, and I emphasise generally, plays a less important part in the everyday life of today's worker than it did for my grandfather. For him and for many of his generation the union was important as much for its fraternal and financial support as for its political and industrial muscle.
Does this mean that the Commission is likely to play a lesser role in the century ahead? Historians can always interpret the past. They are far less able to articulate that knowledge in ways that predict the future. But on the basis of the Commission's ability, willingly and sometimes unwillingly, to redefine and re-articulate its role over the past 97 years, I would hazard an informed guess that the prospects are positive.
It seems to me that certain distinctively Australian values are as powerful today as in 1904. I speak here not of the more obvious characteristics of a fair go and mateship, for these terms - whether normative or positive - remain as ambiguous as they are powerful. Rather, I emphasise the notion of a safety net, i.e. of most Australians continuing support for the shield of institutional government to protect those most in need - this strong desire for a welfare and medical system able to provide on-going assistance to those in need; the acceptance of a minimum wage, although not the scope of its ambit; and most recently the creation, for the first time, of a government funded scheme to protect the entitlements of employees. All are indicative of community acceptance of the role of government in establishing and maintaining a social and industrial safety net. Equally significant and inextricably related is the belief in the role of an independent umpire, a role championed in the public mind by the Commission.
There can be little doubt that there will continue to be strong arguments about the rules of engagement, about the objectives of the game, even, to dangerously extend the metaphor, about which code is being played. Hopefully there will be a harmonisation of industrial relations systems and agreement on a single level playing field. But the attraction of an umpire able to make judgment and to exert authority remains strong in popular sentiment. If the past Century tells us anything it is that the Commission will continue to evolve this role, adapting itself to an ever-changing environment and, through its words or actions, playing a key role in the discourse that articulates public policy. I wish it well.
May it please the Commission.
JUSTICE GIUDICE: Mr Bunting.
MR BUNTING: Your Honour the President and Members of the Commission, it gives me great pleasure to appear today representing the Law Council of Australia and its President, Anne Trimmer. The jurisdiction administered by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and now the Australian Industrial Relations Commission is distinctively Australian perhaps, to be fair to our friends in New Zealand who may justly claim first to have introduced the system, distinctively Australasian. The Commission's story is closely associated with the social, political and constitutional development of the Commonwealth of Australia as a Federation and as a nation.
The jurisdiction is one in which there has always been a direct involvement by legal practitioners. This has been through the appointment of many eminent and well respected practising lawyers to the Commission and its predecessors, through the supervision of the Commission's processes by the High Court of Australia, through the development of a distinctive industrial jurisprudence, through the involvement of countless barristers and solicitors in the resolution of industrial problems by conciliation and arbitration, and in many other ways.
The involvement of legal practitioners is notwithstanding some legislative limitations which have been present from early times on the right of appearance of legal practitioners in conciliation and arbitration proceedings. (I am grateful, your Honour, for the implicit grant of leave today.)
Section 127 of the 1904 Act provided that:
On the hearing or determination of any industrial dispute an organization may be represented by a member or officer of any organization and any party not being an organization may be represented by the employee of that party; but no party shall (except by consent of all the parties or by the leave of the President) be represented by counsel or solicitor.
(Legislative drafting in 1904, it seems, allowed for a little more economy of style than is now fashionable.)
Speaking of a not dissimilar provision in the Act as it stood in 1953, Justice Wright of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration said as follows:
My approach to the question of representation by counsel is, I must confess, strongly influenced by the knowledge, expressly stated by them to have been shared by almost every Judge of this Court since its inception that the work of the Court and the attainment of its objects are substantially assisted by the participation of advocates professionally trained in forensic skill. That applies, in my opinion, just as much to the marshalling of facts as to the elucidation of questions of law.
It is interesting to me to note that the union advocate before the Court who had taken an objection to the appearance by counsel on the other side was non other than Norm Docker of the Waterside Workers Federation. Norm Docker will be well remembered by many here as one of the great lay advocates to participate in conciliation and arbitration proceedings before the Commission and all of its predecessors from the 1950s through to the 1980s. It is difficult to conceive of a person less likely to be at a disadvantage if confronted by counsel on the other side. Certainly he seemed under no disadvantage at all when, later in his distinguished union career, he was at the other end of the table to me in matters concerning the Waterside Workers Award!
I wish to make some particular observations today under three headings. Firstly, the development of the Australian federation and the conciliation and arbitration power. Secondly, the development of fundamental constitutional principles from cases with industrial origins. And, thirdly, the contribution of the legal profession in the workings of the Commission.
Moving to the first of those themes, it is a characteristic of federations that there is a tension between States rights and central or federal power. An undisputed feature of the Australian federation has been the movement of power from the States to the Commonwealth. It commenced, so far as judicial developments are concerned, with the Engineers Case and accelerated during the last War and in the post War years.
The movement of power from the States to the central authority is a phenomenon which has been replicated and played out in the sphere of conciliation and arbitration. Proponents of the conciliation and arbitration power and later of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court undoubtedly envisaged that the power in the Court would be occupied basically with industries and actual disputes which crossed State borders. Early awards such as the first Waterside Workers Award made by Justice Higgins in 1914 would meet this expectation and description.
From the 1920s onwards, however, the High Court gave decisions which widened greatly the scope of the Commonwealth legislative powers with respect to conciliation and arbitration and therefore the powers of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Early decisions of importance include the acceptance of paper disputes, the acceptance that federal awards can override State legislation and State awards, and the acceptance that an employer may be bound in relation to non-unionists as well as unionists. This development has not stopped.
Indeed, decisions in more recent times have been important in permitting a continuing aggregation of powers or potential powers in the central authority. Examples are the discarding of the notion that an industrial dispute requires, amongst other things, that it take place in an industry, thereby opening up various occupations hitherto only able to be regulated under State systems, and the decisions of the High Court confirming the power of the Commission in an appropriate case to make an award in relation to superannuation.
There are likely yet to be many new turns: the trade and commerce power has long been used in the Commission's governing legislation in particular industries, but there is much scope for expansion; we are at the early stages of the use of the corporations and external affairs powers; and there could be a large, so far legislatively uncharted, territory in the prevention element of the conciliation and arbitration power. Of course, there will always be limits and it is interesting in this regard to note the limitations recently determined by the High Court in relation to a dispute between State public servants and the Government of Victoria.
The result of these numerous developments to date has been that although State tribunals continue (other than in Victoria) and carry out very important functions, the Commonwealth tribunal has gradually assumed the dominant and pre-eminent role which it occupies today in mainstream industrial dispute handling and determination of wage fixation policy.
One other way in which the exercise of the Commonwealth's power with respect to conciliation and arbitration has played a demonstrable role in the development of the Australian federation and nation is through the unifying influence of its awards in various industries. Notwithstanding the early and surviving authority of the Whybrow Case which limits the Commission's authority beyond the direct disputants and, therefore, limits its capacity in effect to legislate for an industry, the Commission's awards in industries such as the metal industry or the pastoral industry or the stevedoring industry, made pursuant to paper disputes covering unionists and non-unionists alike, have provided a practical unifying influence not present in the late Colonial and early State economies.
Parliament had given the Commonwealth Arbitration Court no statute law with regard to conditions of labour to administer, only (as Alfred Deakin put it) "general sailing directions". As the national characteristics of the Australian economy emerged, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was able to reflect, and at times to lead, the development of industrial conditions applying on a virtually common basis throughout industries within Australia.
The decisions and principles emerging in industrial law which I have mentioned are central to the work of the Commission today and to industrial law, but some of them may not otherwise have special importance. It is noteworthy, however, that the Commission and its predecessors have been amongst the best (albeit reluctant) customers of the High Court over the last 100 years and in that time have played, no doubt unintentionally, a part in the establishment of some of the fundamental principles of general importance to the workings of the Constitution. I mention two decisions in this regard: the Boilermakers Case and the Engineers Case.
The Boilermakers Case deals with the question whether a body, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, could be invested with both judicial and non-judicial powers consistently with the scheme of the Constitution. The High Court's negative answer to that question was a critical development - perhaps the single most important - for the Constitution and work of the Arbitration Court and its judicial and arbitral successors. The decision is also of fundamental importance, however, to an understanding of the separation of powers under the Australian Constitution. The decision reverberates well beyond industrial law.
The Engineers Case, which went to the High Court as a case stated for consideration under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, remains the guiding authority for the High Court and the Commonwealth Parliament in understanding the breadth of the legislative powers available to the Commonwealth Parliament under section 51 of the Constitution. It is the authority which underpins the Commonwealth Parliament's power to legislate broadly with respect to a section 51 subject matter, notwithstanding that its law may have an impact on the operations of the States or their agencies. The Engineers Case has been fundamental to the rise of central legislative power within our Federal system.
The Engineers Case is a useful starting point in commenting briefly on my third and final theme: the contribution of lawyers in the workings of the Commission and its predecessors. The Engineers Case is useful because of the involvement that well-known union lawyer representing the Amalgamated Society of Engineers in the case, Robert Gordon Menzies. How much credit is due to R.G. Menzies personally for the decision of the Court is the subject of entertaining consideration by the former Chief Justice Sir Gerard Brennan, in a speech entitled "Three Cheers for Engineers", given at the Australian National University on 31 August 1995 to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Engineers Case. Coming, as I do, from the "you take your wins where you find them" school, I would not be one to deny Mr Menzies any of his due as a successful advocate in the case.
There have, of course, been many great lawyers involved in the workings of the Commission and its predecessors. This comes as no surprise when one considers that the first six Presidents of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration were drawn from the ranks of the Justices of the High Court. And although High Court Justices now have their hands sufficiently full so that (even without the Boilermakers case) they would be unavailable for service within the Industrial Relations Commission, it is noteworthy that two serving members of the High Court, Justices Gaudron and Kirby, were members of the Australian Commission in the 1970s and early 1980s.
Additionally, it is to be remembered that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration was established as a Court of Record. Its basic jurisdiction was the unique Australasian one of investigating the merits of an industrial dispute, encouraging an amicable settlement in a Memorandum of Agreement the terms of which would be certified by the President and then take effect as an Award, or if needed determining the dispute by Award in compulsory arbitration proceedings. In hearing and determining a matter the Court was required to act according to equity, good conscience, and the substantial merits of the case, without regard to technicalities or legal forms. It was not to be bound by the rules of evidence. (It is interesting to me to note the longevity of some of the central concept and drafting formulations involved in that initial grant of power by the early Commonwealth Parliament.)
Within these boundaries and the other "general sailing directions" given by Parliament, an enormous range of legal practitioners has participated over the years in matters before the Commission and its predecessors in cases large and small, helping to develop a distinctive industrial jurisprudence. The participation has been on the Bench as well as at the Bar table. Within the legal profession there has been a full involvement by solicitors, as well as barristers and also by many legally qualified officers of registered organisations. Many of those lawyers have brought distinctive learning, good sense and judgment to the resolution of industrial problems. I think it fair to claim for the legal profession, notwithstanding all of its undoubted faults, that the profession has made a valuable contribution to the workings of the Commission and has at least, in part, merited the observations of Justice Wright in 1953, which I quoted earlier.
Your Honour, the Law Council of Australia congratulates the Commission for conducting its Ceremonial Sitting today, to mark the Centenary of Federation within the Commonwealth of Australia and wishes me to express its thanks for the invitation to address the Commission.
If the Commission pleases.
JUSTICE GIUDICE: Thank you Mr Paterson, Ms Burrow, Mr Herbert, Dr Shergold and Mr Bunting all for your remarks.
It has been pointed out that the Australian Industrial Relations Commission is a direct descendant of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The Court was established in 1904. In 2004 therefore, we shall celebrate the centenary of a singular institution which, in its various forms will have been for 100 years required to prevent and settle industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of a single State. While that celebration is still some years away, it is worth recalling in this year of the Centenary of Federation, that the history of conciliation and arbitration is an integral part of the history of our Federation and the history of conciliation and arbitration encompasses not only the Federal system, but also the State systems.
It is a great honour and pleasure, therefore, to have the Senior Members of the State Industrial Commissions sitting with us today in the dual capacities of Heads of their own jurisdictions and Presidential Members of this Commission. They are Chief Commissioner Coleman and Presidents Jennings, Hall and Leary. Unfortunately Justice Wright, the President of the Industrial Relations Commission of New South Wales is overseas and he regrets he is unable to sit with us today.
The creation of a Federal system of conciliation and arbitration was part of the platform upon which Sir Edmond Barton contested the first Commonwealth Parliamentary elections, although it is to be noted he expressed the hope that the necessity for the exercise of the jurisdiction would seldom arise. When, in due course, Barton formed the first Commonwealth Government, he gave a high priority to the establishment of a Labor Relations System. The first Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was introduced into the House of Representatives on 5 June 1901 and it is noteworthy that this Ceremonial Sitting is taking place 100 years to the day after that Bill was read a first time in the House of Representatives.
It is a measure of the contemporary importance of the Bill that the very first sitting of the Parliament had taken place just four weeks earlier. It was to be another 3-and-a-half years before the Conciliation and Arbitration Act would pass. Almost from the inception of the Commonwealth the decisions of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration assumed economic, social and political significance. It dealt with issues such as the creation of Federal Awards, the fixation of minimum wages and the interaction between Federal and State jurisdictions. The decisions of the Court and its successors have had a profound effect on the nature and quality of the working life of generations of workers and on the economic fortunes of their employers.
And so it is today with Commission Members exercising their powers in relation to matters which are of importance to particular enterprises and industries and to the economy as a whole. While dispute prevention and settlement still constitute a large part of the Commission's work, the exercise of jurisdiction in relation to individual rights, particularly the jurisdiction arising from termination of employment, is now just as important.
There has rarely been a time in the Commission's history when its statutory role has not been the subject of some political debate and many of its decisions have given rise to public discussion and extensive media analysis. This is to be expected given the nature of the Commission's functions and the area of society in which those functions are exercised. Industrial disputes whether of the collective of individual kind, are about relationships between people and even relatively minor disputes are given close attention by the media, eager to draw out the human interest and political aspects.
For those reasons, throughout its history, members of the national industrial relations tribunal, have frequently been required to carry out their duties amid high controversy and in the glare of public scrutiny. The exercise of powers under those conditions requires exceptional personal qualities. The ability to see through the emotion and noise and perceive what is fair and the fortitude to implement decisions in the face of public criticism.
In looking back over the last 97 years, as we do today, it is appropriate to acknowledge the courage and dedication of our predecessors and as we go forward the Members of the Commission here today and those to come, shall draw on the example and inspiration of all those who have gone before.
May I once again express my appreciation on behalf of all of us, to those who have spoken this morning and to record our thanks to those who have worked so hard to organise this morning's sittings, in particular the Sydney staff of the Australian Industrial Registry and my personal staff. Adjourn the Commission.
The Ceremonial Sitting stands adjourned