Captured Courts and Tribunals: A Threat to Democracy


Graeme Watson Events@thecentre

In his first speech since retiring, and in light of the Fair Work Commission’s ruling to reform Sunday penalty rates in the retail and hospitality sectors, Graeme Watson will speak on his more than 10 years’ experience as Vice President of the Commission.

Recently described as ‘one of the most brilliant industrial lawyers of his time’, his letter of resignation to Employment Minister Michaelia Cash outlined that in his view the operation of the Workplace Relations system was undermining the objects of the Fair Work Act of promoting national economic prosperity and social inclusion. His letter led Peter Costello to liken him to Samson in the Bible — ‘shaking the pillars of the system to bring it down on the heads of the Philistines’.

Overt capture of independent courts and tribunals is a feature of undemocratic societies, dictatorships and autocracies. It undermines a key element of democracy, the rule of law.

Alarmingly, there is clear evidence of this undermining of some of our pillars of western democracy. But capture is even more damaging when it is covert, hiding behind an air of legitimacy and independence. Society needs to be ever vigilant to this threat. Interference and capture needs to be exposed and eliminated — not avoided for fear of committing the same vice of interference. Scrutiny and holding our institutions to account based on the fundamental principles of democracy are obligations we all share.

This speech by one of Australia’s leading industrial lawyers and judges will address these concepts by reference to industrial tribunals internationally and in Australia.

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Details of the Lunch are as follows:

When: Tuesday 21st March 2017

Where: The Centre for Independent Studies, Level 1, 131 Macquarie Street SYDNEY NSW 2000

Time: 12 pm for a 12:30 pm start. The event will conclude at 2 pm

Cost: $50 p/p for Members & $60 p/p for Non-Members

To secure your place please book at www.cis.org.au/events or call (02) 9438 4377.

Please note that all bookings are transferable but non-refundable. If you wish to transfer a booking you must advise the organisers of the name change at your earliest convenience.


For event enquiries please email Max Hawke-Weaver at mhawkeweaver@cis.org.au

For media enquiries please email Karla Pincott at kpincott@cis.org.au

Limited parking is available within the building complex. Online pre-bookings are essential to secure a car spot and discounted parking rate. Please visit the Secure Parking website, select the car park at 131 Macquarie Street and enter the promotion code: CIS10 when making your booking. If you are travelling by train, Martin Place and Circular Quay are the nearest stations to our office, with Wynyard a few minutes further away.