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TRANSCRIPT OF PROCEEDINGS
ON THE OCCASION
THE WELCOME OF
AUSTRALIAN INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS COMMISSION
FRIDAY, 22 AUGUST 2003
JUSTICE GIUDICE, PRESIDENT
DEPUTY PRESIDENT McCARTHY
INDUSTRIAL REGISTRAR WILSON
MR J. LLOYD, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS
MR B. WILLIAMS, DIVISIONAL DIRECTOR, EMPLOYEE RELATIONS, CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY WESTERN AUSTRALIA
MR J. MURIE, VICE PRESIDENT, UNIONS WA
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COURT CRIER: This Commission is now in session. Welcome to Commissioner Thatcher.
JUSTICE GIUDICE: Commissioner Thatcher?
COMMISSIONER THATCHER: President, I have the honour to announce that I have received a Commission from his Excellency, the Administrator, appointing me to be a Commissioner of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission. I present the Commission.
JUSTICE GIUDICE: Mr Industrial Registrar, I direct that the Commission be recorded. Mr Lloyd?
MR J. LLOYD: I thank you, your Honour and members of the Commission. It is my pleasure on behalf of the Australian Government to welcome you, Commissioner Thatcher. The role which you take on involves considerable responsibility. Workplace relations play an important part in the economic and social fabric of our society. The success we have achieved in transforming our workplace relations is an important underpinning of our sustained, economic prosperity of recent years.
Australia must have efficient, profitable and competitive workplaces to generate the wealth we require to live in a prosperous and secure nation. Workplace relations reform is directed to this end. Workplace relations in the role and functions of the Commission have been transformed in this process. The challenge for the future is to continue the reform process to tap the skills, knowledge and commitment of Australian employees and employers to improve productivity, to increase earnings to enhance and make more flexible the conditions of employment and to create more jobs. The Commission has an important contribution to make in facilitating this further reform.
I turn now to your undoubted capacity, Commissioner Thatcher, to play a constructive role in this important task for the Commission. You have extensive experience in workplace relations that goes way back to 1962 when you commenced employment at the Queensland Public Service Board as a personnel clerk. I suspect quite a number of people in workplace relations and perhaps even some on this Commission, started out as personnel clerks. You have spent many years on my estimate since the early 1990s, in senior workplace relations positions. These positions have been in the public sector in New South Wales, Queensland and importantly, you can point to a time in WA, your new adopted State, where you were CEO at the State Department.
Another important facet of your career has been experience within the private sector where you held a senior post with the Business Council of Australia. This workplace relations resume has been augmented by experience with the Sydney 2000 Organising Committee for the Olympic Games. You have also worked in the TAFE and welfare sectors. Of course, the position you occupied from August 2001 to March 2003 was a very important post. I refer to you appoint as Secretary to the Royal Commission into the building and construction industry, the Cole Royal Commission.
I know from my perspective of my own engagement with the Royal Commission that this was a very challenging job. You were the first officer appointed; you had to set up the Commission; engage its staff; organise hearings and most importantly, play a major role in producing a most comprehensive and insightful report against very tight deadlines. That all this was achieved is testimony to your personal commitment, professionalism and determination.
I have had the pleasure of work and liaising with you over a period of about 10 years, including being your successor as CEO of the WA Department. I must say I have enjoyed this experience. I have found you a person of great energy and commitment, someone who is keen to explore new ideas and who recognises the value of accountability and innovation in public sector employment. You have a genuine interest in people and in making their working life challenging and fulfilling. Also, you are a person with a clear sense of fairness and trust; qualities that will be important in your new role. With great confidence, I wish you well in your new appointment. Thank you.
JUSTICE GIUDICE: Mr Williams?
MR B. WILLIAMS: Your Honours, if I may, I would like to read a statement on behalf of Mr Peter Anderson, Director of Workplace Policy from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry:
Your Honours, Members of the Commission and in particular, Commissioner Thatcher, I regret being unable to attend this morning's ceremonial sitting in person due to prior commitments in the eastern States. However, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, our Board, our members and our secretarial staff, warmly welcome the appointment of Colin Thatcher to the Office of a Commissioner to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.
We have already informally conveyed this message to Colin and now do so on the record. Colin's appointment will add considerably to the collective wisdom, to the standing and to the capacity of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission. He has a distinguished record of service in both the public and the private sectors on workplace matters. In addition, he has considerable expertise in management and in administration, skills that will add to the capabilities of the Commission and should be used to their full value.
He also has the unique perspective of having worked for considerable periods in a number of Australian States. He therefore brings a national perspective to what is a significant national statutory institution. His work with the Business Council of Australia in 2000 in promoting a debate about the reform of the multiple jurisdictional arrangements was highly valued and still sets the scene for further consideration of that issue. Colin's past work as varied as it is, suggests a discipline and pragmatism to achieve ends and not just means.
Aside from his work in workplace relations, his work on industry training and skills development whilst in the public sector, particularly in Queensland, is one reason why there is today such strong participation in the new apprenticeship system by young people in service industries. Aside from his work, Colin has a character and temperament that is well suited to the disciplines of the Commission. He is fair minded, has demonstrated a personal integrity in his dealings with employers, employees, unions, industry associations, politicians and governments.
He is not prone to exaggeration or extremism and has respect for the rule of law and the statutory charter. I welcome Commissioner Thatcher and express the support of Australian employers in an appointment that will contribute to the work and standing of the Commission in coming years. Thank you.
JUSTICE GIUDICE: Thank you. Mr Murie?
MR J. MURIE: Thank you. Mr President and Members of the Commission and especially Commissioner Thatcher, I am please to be at this welcoming ceremony today representing the unions. In the first instance, I would like to convey apologies on behalf of Stephanie Mayman, Secretary of Unions WA, who along with many union officials from WA, have been attending the ACTU Congress in Melbourne this week and therefore are unable to attend.
Over the years, this Commission has played a vital role in the Australian community. The Act governing the Commission has been amended more often than most other Acts with the possible exception of the Tax Act but despite all of that, the role of the Commission as an avenue for fairly dealing with parties in dispute has not varied a great deal. It is vital that the community and those who are affected by its deliberations have confidence in this institution. The institution is, of course, fundamentally a reflection of those who are appointed to be Commission Members. And yet, it is bigger than the sum total of all those Members. The Commission, with its traditions and history, can boast a proud record which we are confident will continue into the future.
It is true that the ACTU has been critical of the Government's failure to appoint more Commissioners with a union background, however, I should make it very clear that this is not in any way a criticism of yourself, Mr Commissioner Thatcher. We adhere most strongly to the view that once a person has been appointed to this Commission, that is what they become; a Commissioner. What may or may not have been in the past should remain there as it is irrelevant. Who remembers or cares what the background was of distinguished Presidents such as, Sir Richard Kirby or Sir John Moore. The mark that they made is as members of this Commission and that is what it should be.
Commissioner Thatcher, we welcome you back to Western Australia. I am sure you will find that while much has changed, the welcome of West Australians remain as warm as it was when you were here previously. May I say from a parochial point of view that we are most pleased to see that the Government has seen fit to maintain three Commission Members based in this State. We would, of course, argue that with nearly 11 per cent of the labour force, we should have about 11 per cent of the Commissioners based here; which would be 5-and-a-half.
However, we must concede that we have come a long way since 11 November 1975, which was an auspicious day as it marked the day upon which Mr Jim Coleman took up his appointment as the first WA based Member of this august body. On behalf of Unions WA, I congratulate you on your appointment and wish you well in carrying out the demanding tasks which lie ahead. We look forward to working with you and trust that while we may not always be in total agreement, we will always have in common a respect for the institution of which you are now a part. Thank you.
JUSTICE GIUDICE: Thank you, Mr Murie. Commissioner Thatcher?
COMMISSIONER THATCHER: President and Members of the Commission, Industrial Registrar, bar table, ladies and gentlemen. I would like to thank you all for your presence this morning at this welcome ceremony and to say at the outset that I consider it to be a great honour to have been appointed to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission and to have the opportunity to make a positive contribution in the role of Commissioner.
I wish to express my appreciation for the generous comments made from the bar table from the representatives of government and employer and employee rep bodies, which I will accept in the spirit they were intended. I have received a very warn welcome, without exception, from all members of the Commission with whom I have recently come into contact. Similarly, since my appointment was announced, I have received assistance from the Registrar and his staff who have been extremely helpful as I have gone about the task of settling in. I am most grateful for the nature of such welcome and the readiness to provide me with assistance. I have also received a similar welcome from Members of the West Australian Industrial Relations Commission and its Registrar and staff.
I must record that I have been very heartened by the assistance that Amanda and I have received from various persons from the Perth community who have been very helpful as we have gone about our relocation here. Some of you may know that the previous occasion that I moved to Perth some 8 years ago, was tragically interrupted after a period of only 6 weeks had elapsed and I left a few months later without really engaging in any depth with the local community. However, I have always remembered the West Australian courtesies and hospitality that were extended to me. So I am very much looking forward to embracing the community and environment of this State under the very happy, personal circumstances of which I am now blessed.
Of course, like those who have come to the Commission before me, I come with a history of work in various fields, including industrial relations, during which I have worked to progress the respective policies and positions of my various employers. With one relatively short exception, I have seen myself as a career public servant with a commitment to providing effective and efficient service to the public and the government of the day, in a professional manner. As my public service commenced in 1962 and extended to the Commonwealth and with three States, the magnitude of the list of persons who have assisted me along the way, who I would really like to thank today, makes that task impossible.
But with my appointment, I give a public undertaking to now do my very best to not be influenced by any such policies and positions of my former employers. My task is, of course, to apply the legislation as it relates to the Commission, to the matters that come before me in a style that is of service to the parties with their changing and varied needs and in a manner that upholds and enhances the respect for the body of which I am now a member. I am very conscious of the oath of Office that I have recently sworn.
Of course, I appreciate that I have much to learn as I undertake this role to the best of my endeavours. Also, given my commitment to lifelong learning, I will continue to learn from colleagues and the parties with whom I will come into contact. In this respect, I am mindful of the words of Samuel Butler who in the 1890s said that, "Life is like playing the violin solo in public and learning the instrument as one goes along." I just want to thank you all again, very much, for being here today, which is a very important day for me. Thank you.
JUSTICE GIUDICE: Commissioner. I adjourn the Commission.