Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Bill Shorten announced eight new appointments to the Fair Work Commission
(FWC) on Thursday 28 March 2013 just as businesses were winding down for the Easter break.
Appointed to the newly created role of Vice President were Clayton Utz partner and Law Council of Australia President Joe
Catanzariti and Senior Counsel Adam Hatcher.
Current Commissioners Anne Gooley and Ingrid Asbury have been elevated to the role of Deputy President.
Also appointed at the rank of Deputy President were Corrs Chambers Westgarth partner Val Gostencnik and former ACTU secretary
At the Commissioner level there are two appointments; the current Fair Work Ombudsman Nick Wilson and Fair Work Building and
Construction Chief Executive Leigh Johns.
The reaction from business has not been overwhelmingly positive with the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry criticising
the appointments for not including any representatives with current business or employer representative experience.
Although the appointments seem weighted to the employee side of the fence it is not entirely one sided.
Ms Asbury was employed by the Australian Industry Group until her concurrent appointment to the QIRC and the AIRC (as the
FWC then was) in 2000. She accepted a primary appointment to FWA as a Commisioner in 2012.
Mr Hatcher and Mr Gostencnik’s backgrounds are more aligned with the left while Mr Catanzariti has more experience as an employer
representative. Mr Johns’s relationship with building unions in his role as Australian Building and Construction Commissioner
has been combative.
The national resource industry employer group AMMA has criticised the appointments as too heavily biased towards ALP and union
appointments. AMMA also commented that there were “too many Chiefs and not enough Indians” with six of the eight appointments
at a senior level and only two Commissioners appointed. The current make-up of the FWC sees 22 members at the presidential
level and 24 at the level of Commissioner.
Despite their concerns both ACCI and AMMA congratulated the appointees on their achievement.
The criticism over the backgrounds of the appointees is no surprise and may explain the timing of the announcement, just before
the Easter break.