The Federation Press

Laying the Foundations of Industrial Justice

the Presidents of the Industrial Relations Commission of NSW, 1902-1998


In 2002 the Industrial Relations Commission of NSW celebrated its centenary. Its earliest predecessor, the NSW Court of Industrial Arbitration, held its first meeting on 16 May 1902. While there is great deal of interest in the federal arbitration system, the NSW system covered more workers in the state and led the federal tribunal in a number of areas. The lengthy periods of Labor Party Government in NSW provided a favourable environment for progressive industrial legislation. State legislation led the way in Australia on the 40-hour week, long service leave, equal pay for women and job security. The state tribunal also led the federal tribunal on concepts such as the living wage and more recently issues such as family care leave for same sex couples and equal remuneration irrespective of gender. Currently, the NSW Commission covers a broader range of issues than the federal tribunal and in recent decisions has highlighted issues such as human rights at work and comparable worth.

This book focuses on the first nine presidents of the Industrial Relations Commission and its predecessors, commencing with Henry Emanuel Cohen in 1902 and concluding with Judge Bill Fisher, who retired in 1998. These Presidents include Albert Piddington, George Beeby and Charles Heydon. Many of the Presidents had careers that impacted far beyond the Commission as well. They steered the Commission through a changing political, industrial and economic climate. These individuals’ experiences reveal that industrial regulators are not simply the creatures of capital, labour or government but can shape their own agendas.

The book includes an overview chapter that comprehensively covers the history of NSW industrial arbitration. Greg Patmore edited the book and there are chapters by Andrew Frazer, Andrew Moore, Greg Patmore, John Shields and Lucy Taksa. The book has appeal to anyone interested in law, public policy, industrial relations and Australian history.


The book makes an accessible and scholarly contribution to NSW legal history. - Law Society Journal (NSW), March 2004

[E]xtraordinarily learned, encapsulating a wide variety of material ... The breadth of research is impressive. The technical details in the recounting of the minutiae of the history of industrial relations are alleviated by biographical detals of interesting lives, the colourful inter-mixture of the law, politics, industrial disputes and community activities.
There are some pervasive themes to be discerned from the diverse chapters: the interaction between federal and State industrial systems, issues about the role of trade unions and whether “preference” should be given to union members, the approach that should be taken to industrial action in the face of an opportunity for an orderly disposition of the controversy before an independent tribunal, the security of tenure of the judicial officers constituting the tribunal, and the balance between the role of an industrial tribunal as opposed to the legislature in setting standards in important matters such as hours of work, annual holidays and redundancy payments. ...
The book is enlivened by perspectives on the individual heads of the tribunal. Let me give some examples. AB Piddington [who] resigned in protest when Lang was dismissed from office by Sir Phillip Game. Stanley Taylor [who was] tainted by suggestions, whether justified or not, that embroiled him in the Petrov Royal Commission, ... Sir Alexander Beattie ... and Justice Bill Fisher ...
This is a volume which will be of interest to industrial lawyers, historians and industrial relations practitioners and constitutes an exemplar of scholarly work in the area. - JW Shaw, Australian Law Journal, December 2003 [(2003) 77 ALJ 828]

Greg Patmore [has] organised this history chronologically and biographically.with a series of chapters on the presidents .... The method captures well the background, methods, attitudes and vicissitudes of those who directed the work of the Court and the Commission. It allows for consideration of major cases, and offers striking insights into the adaptability of arbitration as it responded to legislative and jsudicial intervention., Labor and non-Labor governments repeatedly altered the duties of the tribunal. sometimes expanding its powers and sometimes overriding them. ... The essays provide a helpful account of changing policy and procedures. ... [The book] does not purport to be comprehensive but it provides an engaging overview. - Labour History 89 (Nov 2005)

Table of Contents

Preface - Justice F L Wright

Greg Patmore

Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration in New South Wales Before 1998
Greg Patmore

Henry Emanuel Cohen (1902-1905)
Andrew Moore

Charles Gilbert Heydon 1905-1918
Andrew Frazer

Walter Edmunds 1920-1926
John Shields

George Stephenson Beeby 1920-1926
Lucy Taksa

Albert Bathurst Piddington 1926-1932
Lucy Taksa

Joseph Alexander Browne 1932-1942
Greg Patmore

Stanley Cassin Taylor 1942-1966
Andrew Moore

Alexander Craig Beattie 1966-1981
Andrew Frazer

William Kenneth Fisher 1981-1998
John Shields

Greg Patmore

Select Bibliography

Of interest...