Giudice Must Answer Questions

23 June 2010

Des Moore, Member, HR Nicholls Board

An attempt by the Federal Government to allow Fair Work Australia head Mr Geoffrey Giudice to avoid questioning at Estimates hearings has been defeated in the Senate, with Senators Steve Fielding and Nick Xenophon voting with the Coalition.

Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard and the Industrial Relations Society of Australia have both publicly supported Giudice's refusal to answer questions, but the Opposition and the HR Nicholls Society have opposed that.

Labor chair of the Senate Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Committee, Senator Gavin Marshall, moved that the Senate modify the order made last year requiring the President to appear every time the committee meets for Estimates on FWA.

Liberal Senator Mary Jo Fisher, who developed considerable expertise in workplace relations while working for former Minister Peter Reith, took the matter to the Senate after the Labor-dominated committee decided to call FWA general manager Lee rather than Giudice.

Now the Coalition has opposed Marshall's motion (which would have been inspired by Minister Gillard) and, with support from Senators Fielding and Xenophon, the vote was 34 against and 32 in favour.

Giudice's excuse was that any requirement to respond to questions would have an "ongoing risk of significant damage to public confidence in the independence and impartiality of the tribunal".

The well known reality is of course the FWA's lack of independence and understanding of the operation of the labour market. It remains to be seen how responsive Giudice is when he appears at the Estimates Committee.