No Ayatollahs Here

The Age
27th October 2004

NOTE: Editor deleted sections in square brackets and substituted phrase in italics.

Paul Robinson's report on the Centenary Convention of Conciliation and Arbitration (PM Backs Qantas on Strike Staff, 23 October) stated that Justice Michael Kirby's comment that there is "no room in this nation for industrial ayatollahs" was a veiled reference to conservative economists at the Institute for Private Enterprise.

[However, it might surprise Mr Robinson to know] I would like to point out that the IPE [(of which I am Director)] does not believe in edicts from on high by which ayatollahs prescribe religious and other behaviour. To the contrary, my Institute supports allowing employers and employees greater freedom to enter mutually beneficial employment contracts. Courts would continue, of course, to require that employers provide a safe workplace and would invalidate contracts entered for illegal purposes or which involved significant abuse of third party rights.

[Justice Kirby also noted my view that the AIRC should become an advisory, mediatory body along similar lines to the successful UK Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. That body is widely used by both employees and employers, and unlike the AIRC, is accepted as completely impartial. Contrary to Justice Kirby's outrageous suggestion, this does not mean I am living in "a remote world of fantasy". Rather, I envisage continuing to move Australian industrial relations away from the behavioural edicts still prescribed by regulators and bodies such as the AIRC to a world of mutually beneficial arrangements.]