The Aims of the Society
- To promote discussion about the operation of industrial relations
in Australia including the system of determining wages and other
conditions of employment.
- To promote the rule of law with respect to employers and
employee organisations alike.
- To promote reform of the current wage-fixing system.
- To support the necessity for labour relations to be conducted
in such a way as to promote economic development in Australia.
How the HR Nicholls Society Began
Henry Richard Nicholls was the editor of the leading Tasmanian
newspaper "The Mercury" in Hobart from 1883 to 1912.
In 1911 (at the sprightly age of 82) this well respected newspaperman
was charged with contempt of court for criticising High Court
judge and Arbitration Court President, Mr. Justice H.B. Higgins.
Nicholls had written that Mr. Justice Higgins had obvious political
leanings and had called him a "political judge". Nicholls
was subsequently acquitted of the charge by a unanimous decision
of the High Court. This decision caused widespread jubilation
amongst the citizens of Hobart who thronged to a public meeting
to mark the occasion. Nicholls died a year later an honoured and
deeply respected citizen.
Seventy-four years later, in October 1985, concern was mounting
over the potential consequences of the Labor Government's review
of the industrial relations system (The Hancock Report). Fearing
legislative implementation of the report, four concerned people
organised a seminar where these problems could be discussed. They
were John Stone, former Secretary of the Commonwealth Treasury;
Peter Costello, a Melbourne barrister, Barrie Purvis, the Director
of the Australian Wool Selling Brokers' Employers' Federation;
and Ray Evans, Executive Officer at Western Mining Corporation
In order to give some historical perspective to the seminar,
the four established the H.R. Nicholls Society, to honour the
man who spoke out publicly about the arbitration system. The Society's
inaugural seminar was held at C.W.A. House, Melbourne on 28th
February -- 1st March 1986 and the proceedings were subsequently
published under the title "Arbitration In Contempt".
When, on the 28th August 1986, the Prime Minister, Mr. R.J.L.
Hawke, accused the Society of being a group of "political
troglodytes and economic lunatics", the Society shot to national
prominence and its success was assured!
Why HR Nicholls?