Speech given at swearing in on 3 August, 1988
Mr President, distinguished Judges, Conciliation Commissioners, learned Counsel, ladies and gentlemen. It is an honour for me to speak to day on behalf of the Labor Council of New South Wales at this welcoming ceremony to honour the appointments of Judge Hill and Judge Maidment to the Industrial Commission of New South Wales.
I am especially glad to join the NSW Minister for Industrial Relations in these proceedings. Last week the Minister and I were talking about that Essential Services Bill and he said: “I’ll see you in Court next Wednesday”. Now I know what he meant.
There can be few persons appointed to the Commission of NSW with the breadth and depth of experience in industrial matters that these two appointments bring to the Bench.
Indeed, when one reviews the appointments that have been made over the last decade, and more certainly it can be said of those before me, that never has so much talent, wisdom, learning and industrial relations experience been covered under the one roof – except, perhaps, if you excuse my historical sense, when Justice S.C. Taylor or A.B. Piddington presided alone.
Mr President, there are some in the community who have argued about the utility of this business of commonsense, practical minded and, occasionally judicial review of industrial relations. “Arbitration in Contempt” is the catchcry of those few who would wish to see the dismantlement of the centralised systems of industrial relations in Australia.
It is significant that the clamour witnessed in recent times for tearing down the powers of a centralised industrial system will likely rear its head once more given the proposed overhaul of industrial relations generally in this State.
On this issue, three things stand out:
First, any review of the system of industrial relations must acknowledge the historical origin and complexity, coupled with the continued credence of a system which – (a) recognises the legitimacy and importance of the work of unions in promoting the interests of their members; (b) provides minimum standards of wages and conditions; and (c) promotes meaningful discussions and consultation between workers and employers.
Second, industrial unionism and the concept of collectivity it entails is fundamental to the practice, procedure and principles of industrial law and relations in N.S.W. and Australia as a whole.
Third, this Commission has been instrumental in ensuring a degree of wage restraint, flexibility and innovation. Indeed, it is recognised that the N.S.W. Industrial Commission has, over the years, often provided a lead to other Australian industrial systems.
This can only be possible with a Bench of Commissioners experienced in understanding the law, as well as the players in the industrial relations arena: those who are aware of the economic ramifications of decisions and those who are gifted with the virtue of common sense. It think it was Voltaire who observed that the problem with common sense is that it is not all that common.
In Judge Maidment, we have someone with the background, knowledge and commonsense to make a significant contribution to this Commission. He has had involvement in a variety of industrial and/or law related matters over the years. I understand that Mr Maidment started his career working with none other than Sir John Moore – the type of employment grounding that many an industrial relations practitioner would wish for.
Mr Maidment is known to many in the union movement from the days when he worked with first, the Clerks Union and, then, as the National Research Officer with the Federated Ironworkers Association in the early 1970s (notably, at the time when the FIA was regarded by many as having the best union research department in Australia).
Since coming to the Bar, Mr Maidment built a solid name representing union as well as employer interests. He was briefed by the Labor Council on occasion – as well, I might add, as appearing against us. Indeed, I understand that one recent case is under repeal – Miranda RSL v. Nelson – in which Mr Maidment appeared against us and (dare I mention on a day such as this) he lost.
Mr Maidment’s reputation as a strong advocate is reflected in the fact that he was frequently briefed to appear for the Crown in matters affecting the government. His professional reputation even went somewhat further afield, as he acted for the Northern Territory and even the government of Papua New Guinea.
Mr Maidment is known as a very competent industrial relations practitioner, well versed in the law and well regarded for putting a case fairly and competently. Such experience will be invaluable to the Commission, and the Labor Council welcomes his appointment to the Bench.
Mr Hill, too, will bring his very considerable depth of industrial experience to the Commission. While Mr Hill has, in recent years, primarily been briefed by employer organisations, it is less well known that in his earlier days he also appeared on many occasions for unions such as the Liquor Trades Union with Hal Wooten in the Australia Industrial Court as it was then.
In more recent times, and in matters such as the Maritime Industry case, the Enquiry into Medical Fees, and the BHP Steel Enquiry, he was well regarded on the union side as a formidable, but fair opponent.
Those on the union side who, over the years, have sat on the other side of the Bar table – in particular those in the Maritime Industry – speak of Mr Hill as a Barrister who is known for his thorough and meticulous presentation of cases. They also unreservedly speak of him as someone from whom they knew they would get “a fair go” and, moreover, whose in-depth knowledge of the Maritime Industry will be sorely missed. To quote one union official speaking of Mr Hill: “He knows his oats”.
In welcoming the appointments today of both Mr Maidment and Mr Hill as Judges of the Industrial Commission, I am confident in the expectation that these new Judges will give a fair hearing and more than a fair understanding of the often vexed matters which will no doubt come before them.
It is an honour to be associated today with this welcome and to convey the best wishes of the Labor Council of New South Wales.
The above was typical of some of the ‘welcoming speeches’ one gave as Secretary or Assistant Secretary of the Labor Council of NSW to the appointment of members of the industrial tribunals.