Phillipa Weeks Lecture 2020: Industrial Relations on the Brink

Presented by ANU College of Law

Given each year in memory of the late ANU Law Professor, Phillipa Weeks, this annual lecture is delivered by national and international experts highlighting key issues in the area of labour law. In 2020, The Honourable Geoff Giudice AO will be delivering this lecture.

Nearly three decades of continuous economic growth have come to an abrupt end thanks to the new coronavirus, COVID-19. The economy is already in recession and may be heading for a depression. Economists estimate that conditions will be as bad in the next 2 to 5 years as they have been at any time in the last century.

Before the current crisis, traditional forms of industrial regulation were being challenged by developments in the world of work, in particular the rise in gig or on demand work based on internet platforms and other forms of contracting. Wages growth was lamentably low and enterprise bargaining moribund. Many other issues were being pursued by employers and unions relating to flexibility in employment arrangements on the one hand and greater security of employment on the other. We now have a new set of issues the system must deal with arising from changes in work organisation, both in the workplace and in the home, all attributable in one way or another to COVID-19. 

The purpose of this lecture is to examine the role and of our industrial relations system, particularly in the context of this sudden reversal of economic fortune. Is the system adequate? Is it capable of responding appropriately? 

This lecture will address the key elements of the industrial relations system including the legislative framework, the Fair Work Commission, the award system, enforcement of industrial laws and the institutional arrangements such as representation which impact on the process of policy formulation. It points to a number of potential changes which might be jointly considered by employers and unions. 


The Honourable Geoff Giudice AO

The Honourable Geoff Giudice AO was appointed President of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission by the Howard Government in 1997. He previously had a career as an industrial relations practitioner, solicitor and barrister. He was appointed the first President of the Fair Work Commission by the Rudd Government in 2009. He retired in 2012. He is an Honorary Professorial Fellow in the Centre for Employment and Labour Relations Law at the Melbourne Law School and chairs a number of Boards. He has written a number of articles on the Australian industrial relations system.

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