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Abbott must make balanced AIRC appointment.

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6 August 2002

Abbott must make balanced AIRC appointment

Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott must make a balanced appointment to fill a new vacancy on the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.

All eyes are on Mr Abbott as he decides who to appoint to the key post of Vice-President of the Commission, following the retirement yesterday of Vice-President McIntyre, who served with fairness and distinction.

Eleven of the twelve appointments made to the Commission by the Howard Government since 1996 have been from employer backgrounds.

Only one of the twelve has been a woman - yet women make up 44% of the workforce.

The last appointments occurred just days before the 2001 election was called - when the Howard Government blatantly thumbed its nose at the caretaker convention and rushed to appoint six new Commissioners - five from employer backgrounds.

Recently the HR Nicholls Society - the Howard Government’s cheer squad on industrial relations - let the cat out of the bag when its President Ray Evans said in a candid moment:

“I have a lot of scepticism about the notion, which still has a lot of currency in the Liberal Party, that if you put the right people on the tribunal all will be well.” (Australian Financial Review, 8 May 2002)

Despite its scepticism, the Society was still moved to award former Minister Peter Reith this year’s Charles Copeman Medal “for distinguished service in the cause of Australian industrial relations”.

Rather than chase next year’s medal, Mr Abbott should concentrate on making a balanced appointment to the Commission.

The pressure is on Tony Abbott to demonstrate whether he really supports an independent umpire.

For further information: Jonathan Kirkwood 0425 231 690

Shadow Attorney-General and Shadow M inister for W orkplace Relations

Robert McClelland MP