Why I’m with VP Watson

When I appeared on the Switzer program last week and once again raised serious concerns about the operation of Australia’s national employment relations tribunal, the Fair Work Commission, I could not have imagined I’d be proven so right so soon.

But then, just a few days after my segment went to air, Fair Work Commission Vice President Graeme Watson resigned in disgust from his (very) well-paid and highly influential position, which he was entitled to hold until the age of 65.

In his blistering letter of resignation, VP Watson confirmed beyond any doubt that each and every one of the criticisms we have levelled at the Commission in recent years has been justified:

  • He said the Commission cannot be described as ‘balanced’. We’ve been saying that for years.
  • He noted businesses increasingly regard the Commission as ‘partisan, dysfunctional and divided’. We sure do!
  • He wrote that the current Fair Work system does not foster ‘cooperation or productivity’. Couldn’t have said it better myself.
  • He confirmed the Commission’s current modus operandi is damaging business and our national economy. It sure is.
  • And in remarks made some time ago, he lamented the narrow trade union background of many of those appointed until retirement to the Commission by various governments of the day. We have been red-flagging the appalling lack of diversity in Commission appointments for years.

Let there be no doubt: the very public resignation of the fourth most senior-ranked Commissioner – and the publication of his scathing resignation letter – is a major slap in the face for the Commission.

And don’t forget, this is the same tribunal which is still trying (unsuccessfully) to rebuild its reputation after the resignation of another former Vice President, Michael Lawler.

You may remember him – he is the partner of the now-convicted former head of the Health Services Union, Kathy Jackson, who took almost a year off on fully-paid (by the tax payer) sick leave on his salary of over $400,000 per year and decided that would be a good time to appear on the ABC’s Four Corners program.

You really should download the program if you haven’t already –  VP Lawler describes himself as ‘c**t struck’, and then goes on to demonstrate how he secretly recorded his telephone conversations with his boss, Fair Work Commission President, Iain Ross. Keep in mind Michael Lawler was still an appointed Vice President of the Fair Work Commission when that segment went to air.

You really can’t make this stuff up. And perhaps that’s why when I raise concerns about the Commission I’m often told things can’t really be as bad as I claim.

Thanks to VP Watson’s letter of resignation, you now know for sure they are … and then some.

By David Bates

Published: Wednesday, January 25, 2017 on Switzer

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