Shaw appointed to bench

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Shaw appointed to bench

Shaw is the Deputy-Chairperson of the NSW Law Reform Commission, and a member of the national committee of management of the Australian Labour Law Association. No decision has yet been made on when he will assume his new position.

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The architect of the NSW IR Act, Jeff Shaw QC, a barrister since 1976, will become a Supreme Court judge.

NSW Attorney-General Bob Debus announced yesterday that Cabinet had approved the appointment of his predecessor Shaw, who was also former IR Minister.

Shaw left the ministry in June 2000 after five years in parliament to resume work as a barrister with HB Higgins chambers in Sydney. His departure sparked a ruckus within the NSW union movement, with then-secretary of the Labor Council Michael Costa forced into an early decision as to whether to take Shaw's Upper House seat (see 28/2000).

While Costa elected to wait, and has since become Police Minister, NSW Transport Workers' Union secretary Tony Sheldon upset the Labor Council's succession plan by announcing he would run for secretary, ahead of assistant-secretary John Robertson, who did eventually succeed Costa.

Shaw's biggest achievement in Parliament was the 1996 IR Act, which was written in plain English and re-regulated the IR system at a time when other Coalition state and federal governments around the country were doing the opposite, leading to that state being known as 'Fortress NSW'.

The IR Act was developed through consultation and has led to an IR system which operates largely through consensus and co-operation. Other state Labor Governments have since rewritten their IR laws, often using what has happened in NSW as a starting point for their models.

A report this year into five years of the Act's operation shows that it has delivered 'world class performance' to NSW enterprises, speeded up processing time for agreements almost threefold, delivered win-win outcomes to industrial parties and cut litigation (see 155/2002).

The act also enshrined the principles of equal remuneration for men and women doing work of equal or comparable value - something which saw state librarians, technicians and archivists awarded pay increases of up to 26% in the first equal remuneration test case (see 86/2002).

Shaw also masterminded the plain-English OHS Act 2000, which made it compulsory for employers to consult with workers on workplace OHS and doubled penalties. Again, he said extensive negotiations towards the Act which 'may have seemed convoluted and lengthy' had meant the legislation itself achieved support all round (see 136/2001).

While Shaw is noted for his work as an industrial barrister, he is also noted for his constitutional work, and combined the two after his return to the bar when he commented on the Federal Government's plans, unveiled yesterday, to use its corporations powers under the constitution to take over unfair dismissals from the states.

Speaking at a conference on a unitary IR system held two years ago, Shaw warned of problems arising from the use of the corporations power in IR (see 132/2000). He said workers in non-incorporated workplaces wouldn't be picked up, corporations were limited to foreign, trading and financial corporations, and the Commonwealth would have limited power over state public servants.

He also said the Government and speakers were overplaying the importance of changes to industrial law, when other laws between states - for example criminal law or common law, or workers' compensation - were so different that human rights would never be equal.

Shaw is the Deputy-Chairperson of the NSW Law Reform Commission, and a member of the national committee of management of the Australian Labour Law Association. No decision has yet been made on when he will assume his new position.

 
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