Annual Report 2016-17


The Commission consists of the Tribunal—the President, two Vice Presidents, Deputy Presidents, Commissioners and expert panel members—supported by a General Manager and administrative staff. Figure 1 shows the structure through which the Commission performs its functions and delivers its services.

Figure 1: Organisational structure at 30 June 2017

Figure 1 is a flow-chart diagram of the Commission's organisational structure, which is explained in the text above.


The Commission is headed by the President, the Hon. Justice Iain Ross AO, who is also a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia.

Commission Members perform quasi-judicial functions under the Fair Work Act, including conducting public hearings and private conferences for both individual and collective matters. They also perform certain functions under the Registered Organisations Act concerning federally registered unions and employer organisations.

Commission Members are independent statutory office holders appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Australian Government. They are appointed until the age of 65 on a full time basis, although they may perform duties on a part time basis with the President's approval. Members of state industrial tribunals may hold a dual appointment to the Commission. Expert panel members are appointed on a part time basis for a specified period of not more than five years.

Commission Members come from a diverse range of backgrounds, including the law, unions and employer associations, human resources and corporate management, and the public service. Expert panel members must have knowledge or experience in one or more fields specific to their panel.

Members often share their expertise and engage with the community by participating in a range of presentations, speeches and events in Australia and internationally. For a list of such activities in 2016–17, see Appendix C: Members' activities.

During 2016–17, the following Members were appointed to the Commission (in order of appointment): Deputy President Anderson, Deputy President Colman and Commissioner McKinnon.

During 2016–17, the following Members retired or resigned from the Commission: Vice President Watson, Senior Deputy President Watson, Senior Deputy President Acton, Senior Deputy President Drake, Senior Deputy President Richards, Deputy President Lawrence and Acting Commissioner Cloghan.

The panel system

The Commission allocates work predominantly through a panel system overseen by the President. The panel system seeks to ensure that matters are dealt with efficiently by Members with experience and expertise in particular areas.

On 18 October 2016, the Commission announced changes to its panels, consolidating industries under three panels. From that date, Deputy President Clancy became the head of the termination of employment panel, with Commissioner Bissett as deputy.

On 13 February 2017, the Commission announced further changes to its panels, with Vice President Catanzariti as head of the major resources/infrastructure projects panel, and Senior Deputy President Hamberger as head of the organisations panel.

All panel matters in Western Australia are allocated by Deputy President Bull.

At 30 June 2017, the Commission had eight panels:

  • major resources/infrastructure projects
  • government and recreational services
  • manufacturing and building industry
  • transport, agriculture, mining and services
  • organisations
  • termination of employment
  • anti-bullying
  • the annual wage review.

For more information on the panel system, see Appendix A: List of Members and Appendix B: Panel assignments.

Administrative staff

The Commission's General Manager is Bernadette O'Neill. The General Manager's statutory function is to assist the President in ensuring that the Commission performs its functions and exercises its powers under the Fair Work Act. The General Manager also exercises some regulatory functions and powers concerning federally registered unions and employer organisations under the Registered Organisations Act.

The General Manager is supported by Commission staff, who are employed under the Public Service Act 1999 (Public Service Act). Staff are organised into three branches, with the head of each branch, together with the General Manager, forming the Executive.

Client Services, headed by Louise Clarke, handles the majority of enquiries, both by telephone and at offices in each state and territory. Staff receive and process applications, prepare files, coordinate hearing and conference rooms, maintain the case management system, arrange and conduct conciliations and mediations, and publish documents including decisions and orders.

Corporate Services, headed by Ailsa Carruthers, is responsible for corporate governance and reporting, legal services, financial management and resources, internal communications, human resources and information technology.

Tribunal Services, headed by Murray Furlong, provides research, project management and administrative support to Commission Members.

Tribunal Services staff support the work of Members in chambers, undertake specialist workplace relations and economic research, and assist with managing large statutory reviews, such as those concerning modern awards and the minimum wage. In addition, they perform analysis of enterprise agreements, coordinate arbitration hearings for unfair dismissal matters, provide research for individual Members, maintain a workplace relations library and oversee national and international engagement activities. Since 1 May 2017, staff have processed right of entry permit applications and performed residual functions under the Registered Organisations Act concerning the registration, amalgamation and cancellation of registered organisations and the making and alteration of their rules.

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