Government picks up the pace on dismantling IRC

On 1 September we were part of a deputation of affiliates of Unions New South Wales to be consulted by bureaucrats from the Department of Industrial Relations and Justice on the government’s decision to dismantle the IRC - splitting it in two and sending the Industrial Court and the current President of the IRC off to the Supreme Court. We covered this in our last issue.

(Be patient, we’ll get to Humpty Dumpty in a minute.)

The meeting was opened by the Director-General of the Department of Industrial Relations who described the Brief to Stakeholders on the integration of the Industrial Court into the Supreme Court as a “proposal”. This was a surprise to everyone as the word “proposal” didn’t appear anyway in the brief and we all understood what we were being presented with was a fait accompli, that it would happen whether we liked it or not, that it would happen whether it made any good sense or not, and all they really wanted from us was seven answers to seven specific questions about functional and machinery issues to try to make the transition easier.

We hate the idea of breaking down an historic, venerable and respected institution and fear for the longevity of the remaining five members of the Commission and their staff. We know, in a digital age, that a group that small can pretty much be bundled up, metaphorically and literally, and sent anywhere. And as many of us occasionally work from our cars, we may see them driving around in a Tarago or some other suitably sized people-mover in the years ahead.

We hope not.

Here is a link to the submission we lodged on 5 September. The Government provided less than a fortnight for anyone with an interest to make a submission and, really, why would they dignify a process which is nothing more than telling us what they’re going to do, like it or lump it?

It was acknowledged by the bureaucrats on 1 September that Cabinet had already decided to do this, although they were coy about responding to our questioning of when it happened. We reckon it happened a year or so ago, but they told us Cabinet confidentiality meant they couldn’t tell us. Clearly that’s a furphy, we can understand that they can’t tell us what happened in Cabinet, but should be able to tell us when Cabinet decided to do something. Shouldn’t they?

We were inspired in preparing our submission by Humpty Dumpty’s famous line from Through the Looking Glass, “When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.” It’s not really a question of integrating the Court, it’s a question of disintegrating the Commission.

And phew, that must’ve come very close to breaching the quarantine.

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