FWA head to get reprieve from Senate committee

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FWA head to get reprieve from Senate committee

FWA president Justice Geoffrey Guidice will no longer be expected to appear before Senate Estimates committee hearings from next month, under changed Senate rules.

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FWA president Justice Geoffrey Guidice will no longer be expected to appear before Senate Estimates committee hearings from next month, under changed Senate rules.

From 1 July, the Greens have had the balance of power in the Senate and they made it clear yesterday that they would back the view of the chair of the Senate Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Committee, Labor Senator Gavin Marshall, that Guidice should have to appear only if requested to do so by the committee.

Overturned
 
This would overturn the Senate’s order in October 2009 that Guidice be required to appear whenever the committee met.

That order was moved by the Opposition and backed by Family First Senator Steve Fielding, whose six-year term ended on 30 June, as well as independent Nick Xenaphon.

Xenaphon has indicated he would again vote with the Coalition, but they will not have the numbers this time.

Inappropriate
 
Senator Marshall told the Senate in support of the change that questions put to Guidice could be answered by the FWA general manager. He said questions about determinations by FWA members were inappropriate and Guidice had been right in refusing to answer them.

Guidice has told Senate Estimates it risks undermining public confidence in the FWA’s impartiality.

Craig Thomson questions
 
Shadow IR spokesman Eric Abetz said the government’s move would prevent ‘the FWA president from answering questions relating to the FWA investigation into Labor MP Craig Thomson’.

Abetz said s581 of the Fair Work Act 2009 expressly provides that the president is responsible for ensuring that FWA performs its functions and exercises it powers.

He accused the government of stopping the accountability of Fair Work Australia at Senate Estimates.

‘If Julia Gillard didn’t want this to occur, she wouldn’t have included the provision in the Fair Work Act,’ Abetz said.

Pulling down the shutters
 
‘Despite all of Labor’s talk about “letting the sunshine in” and a “new era of transparency and accountability”, they are instead pulling down the shutters.’

‘Labor must respect the provisions in the Fair Work Act and permit full scrutiny of their agency at Senate Estimates.’

Greens Senator Penny Wright said Guidice could still be called if required.
 
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