Kobelke's Bill has judges astir

News

Kobelke's Bill has judges astir

Judges are the latest group to voice opposition to the Gallop Government's new industrial relations bill in Western Australia, up in arms about a proposal to remove the automatic linking of the salary of the President of the WA IRC with salaries of his judicial colleagues.

WantToReadMore

Get unlimited access to all of our content.

 

Judges are the latest group to voice opposition to the Gallop Government's new industrial relations bill in Western Australia, up in arms about a proposal to remove the automatic linking of the salary of the President of the WA IRC with salaries of his judicial colleagues.

The chairman of the body which represents judges and magistrates, the Judicial Conference of Australia, says such a move goes against an international principle which states judges' remuneration and conditions of service should not be changed to their detriment during their terms.

NSW Justice Simon Sheller told WorkplaceInfo today that he had been approached by WAIRC President Peter Sharkey, who had asked his opinion of clause 185 of the Labour Relations Reform Bill 2002, which proposes the President's salary would be independently assessed and set by the WA Salaries and Allowances Tribunal.

Justice Sheller's opinion was that it contravened the 1995 Beijing Statement, which says a judge's salary and conditions should not be altered to their detriment during their term of office. His finding was discussed recently by the governing council of the Judicial Conference of Australia, meeting in Launceston, and the group voted unanimously to call on the Gallop Government to drop the clause.

The Government has said the move would bring WA into line with NSW, Queensland, and South Australia, where commission members had their wages set by an independent tribunal.

But while Justice Sheller said he had not studied what had happened in those cases, 'the point that matters here is that he was appointed under present legislation' and the new legislation would change the President's future earnings. Under section 20 of the current Act the President's position carried with it the salaries and allowances of a WA Supreme Court judge.

Justice Sheller said he had not been contacted by anyone in the Government and he and President Sharkey, who had also put out a statement publicising the recommendation, could do no more than put out the finding of the JCA. 'That's one of the difficulties of these things,' he said, adding that now that the resolution had been pointed out there would no doubt be some public debate on the matter.

But a spokesperson for WA's IR Minister John Kobelke said while the Minister had not met with the judges to discuss their concerns, the recommendation had come from a report done by former WA IRC senior commissioner Gavin Fielding under the Court Government.

The spokesperson told WorkplaceInfo having salaries set by an independent tribunal this did not necessarily mean they would decrease, but said there was no reason they should be linked to judges' salaries, as the commission was not a court of law.

He added that the changes would be progressively phased in, so that there would be no reduction in salaries for existing commissioners, including President Sharkey.

The WA Salaries and Allowances Tribunal currently comprises two members - chairman Ray Turner, a former managing director of the Town and Country Bank and Jeff Mews, former PricewaterhouseCoopers partner.

Until now, unions (see 32/2002 and 8/2002) and employers (see 47/2002) have been the main parties voicing concern with aspects of the Bill.

 

 
Post details