COALITION Government appointees to the Fair Work Commission have been overwhelmingly frozen out of significant Full Bench determinations over the past three years, according to new analysis by Australian Resources and Energy Group, AMMA.

Stunningly, 94% of all Full Bench matters from 2017-2019 were presided over by Labor Government-appointed members, data compiled through publicly available decisions shows. The analysis also finds:

  • Of the 713 Full Bench matters handed down over 2017-2019, 620 (87%) were presided over by either President Ross, Vice President Hatcher, Vice President Catanzariti or Deputy President Gostencnik; all appointed by the former Rudd/Gillard ALP Government.
  • Three quarters (75%) of Full Bench matters were determined by a majority ALP-appointed bench (typically two ALP appointees and one Coalition appointee).
  • Of the six members (five being Deputy Presidents) appointed by the Coalition in December 2018, only one has participated in Full Bench proceedings (two matters of minor significance).

“The way Full Bench matters are allocated amongst members of the Fair Work Commission is a significant issue as it sets the direction for how the tribunal deals with matters that come before it,” Steve Knott, AMMA Chief Executive, said.

“Many would be shocked to learn that over the past three years, Coalition appointees have been the presiding member in just 6% of Fair Work Commission Full Bench determinations.

“The Rudd/Gillard Government’s controversial appointment process saw them hand-pick the new President and two new Vice Presidents seemingly to capture the long-term leadership and direction of the FWC with key ALP appointees. The success of this strategy has been extraordinary.

“Essentially a ‘gang of four’ ALP appointees have presided over no fewer than 87% of all Full Bench matters over the past three years, all while Coalition appointees are being intentionally sidelined.  It is beyond comprehension that out of a 42-person administrative tribunal just four members, all appointees of the Rudd/Gillard Government, should have this level of influence over its most significant decisions.

“This is not only contrary to the public interest, but also a grossly ineffective use of the tribunal’s resources. The 20 new appointments made by the Coalition since 2013 include barristers, employment lawyers and senior executives, all with contemporary legal and business experience.

“Many have been appointed as Deputy President with annual remuneration of $471,000. There is no justification for freezing-out highly qualified Coalition-appointed members from Full Bench matters.

“Four of the five new Deputy Presidents haven’t even sat on a Full Bench matter, despite there being 722 places to fill on Full Benches in 2019. The measly two Full Bench places allocated to one of the new appointees were both ‘permission to appeal’ matters – procedural in nature and of minimal consequence.

“This level of administrative dysfunction strongly supports AMMA’s recent calls for a full-scale review into the performance and processes of the FWC.  AMMA will discuss this new analysis and the contents of our earlier briefing directly with the government in coming weeks.”

Click here for a PDF of this release, including a series of graphs with in-depth analysis of FWC Full Bench compositions.

MEDIA CONTACT: Brad Thompson, 0409 781 580