Fair Work Closer To Balance After “Shameless” Coalition Stack, Says Peak Union


The Australian Council of Trade Unions has welcomed the latest round of appointments to the Fair Work Commission, a move the Albanese government earlier this year described as an attempt to “even up the balance” after nearly a decade of “shameless stacking” by the Coalition.

During its nine years in government, the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison governments made 27 permanent appointments to the commission. Twenty-six of them “came from an employer background”, according to the ACTU and the Albanese government.

In March this year, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Tony Burke, announced an initial five appointments to the Commission, but suggested there was more to come.

“Even with these appointments we are still a long way from balance,” Burke said. “There is more work to do to correct the Coalition’s shameless stack. I look forward to the day when I can return to appointing people from employee and employer backgrounds in equal numbers. But there is an immediate imperative to restore the balance.”

This week, a further eight appointments were announced. ACTU Secretary Sally McManus said the Albanese Government has continued to act on its election promise to restore balance at the Commission.

“The union movement welcomes these appointments,” Ms McManus said. “These appointments bring the Commission closer to achieving gender balance and greater cultural diversity. This is the first time two women of colour have been appointed to the Commission, appointments that are long overdue.”

New leader of the ACTU, Sally McManus, pictured on ABC’s 7:30.

Oanh Thi Tran, a solicitor at the Young Workers Centre, with a background in trade unions, and Pearl Lim, a senior official at the Australian Services Union, Western Australia Branch are among the latest appointees.

“The Fair Work Commission has a big impact on the lives of working people, so it is essential that it is just and balanced,” Ms McManus said. ”The Coalition government stacked it with employer ideologues, and these new appointments help restore balance.

“It is essential public institutions such as the Fair Work Commission draw from a range of backgrounds so balance and public trust are restored. All these appointments are of highly skilled people with great integrity.”

Tony Burke said the Commission’s work is “more important than ever as the Labor government progresses ambitious workplace relations reforms to lift wages, improve job security and close loopholes undermining pay and conditions”.


March appointments

Judith Wright is Deputy Secretary, Australian Municipal, Clerical and Services Union, NSW, and ACT Services Branch. Ms Wright has been Senior Solicitor with the Waitemata Community Law Service in New Zealand and Senior Associate with Jones Staff and Company.




Thomas Roberts is a Senior Legal Officer of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, where he was previously Director, Legal, Research and Policy.





Peter O’Keeffe is Branch Secretary, Shop Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association, Western Australian Branch, where he also held Senior Industrial Officer and Branch Assistant Secretary roles. Before then, Mr O’Keeffe was Human Resources Manager with The Smith’s Snackfood Company, Employee Relations Manager with Bunnings and Industrial/Research Officer with the Breweries and Bottleyards Union of Western Australia.


Alexandra Grayson is Principal Lawyer with Maurice Blackburn Lawyers. Ms Grayson has been Senior Associate with WG McNally Jones Staff, Tipstaff to the Honourable Justice Staff, Industrial Relations Commission of NSW, and National Industrial Officer with the Finance Sector Union.




Sharon Durham has been Senior Director, Industrial Relations and Workplace Arrangements with Queensland Health, Operations Manager with the Queensland Plumbers Union, Lead Industrial Officer with the Queensland Council of Unions, and Industrial Advocate with Together Queensland. More recently she has been Chief of Staff to the Queensland Minister for Education, Industrial Relations and Racing.


May appointments

Tony Slevin is a barrister at H B Higgins Chambers, Sydney, and has practised in industrial and employment law since 2003. Before that he worked as a Senior Adviser to the NSW Attorney General and Minister for Industrial Relations. Mr Slevin has also been Industrial Advocate for the Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union and Adviser and Advocate for the Motor Inn and Motel Association and Licensed Clubs Association of NSW. Mr Slevin has a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws from Macquarie University.

Susie Allison is Director of the Fair Jobs Code Unit in the Victorian Department of Jobs, Skills, Industry and Regions. Ms Allison has been Executive Director of the United Workers Union and has been Victorian Secretary of the National Union of Workers. Ms Allison has a Bachelor of Arts from the Australian National University and a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) from the University of Melbourne.


Scott Connolly is Assistant Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Mr Connolly has been Assistant Secretary of the Queensland Branch of the Transport Workers Union. Mr Connolly has a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) from the University of Sydney, has completed the Trade Union Leadership Program at Harvard University and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.


Stephen Crawford is Assistant National Secretary and Senior National Legal Officer of the Australian Workers’ Union national office. Mr Crawford has been Principal at Crawford de Carne Lawyers and Legal Officer with the Australian Workers’ Union Greater NSW Branch. Mr Crawford has a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Newcastle.

Pearl Lim is Senior Industrial Officer of the Australian Services Union, Western Australia Branch. Ms Lim has been Industrial Officer with the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union, Western Australia Branch and is a member of the Unions WA Executive. Ms Lim has a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts from the University of Western Australia.

Mark Perica AM is Senior Legal Officer at the Community and Public Sector Union. Mr Perica has practised at the Victorian Bar, was with the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (Vehicle Division) and has worked with Gill Kane and Brophy; Freehill Hollingdale and Page; and Mallesons Stephen Jaques law firms. Mr Perica has a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Jurisprudence from the University of Western Australia, a Master of Arts from the University of Melbourne, and a Master of Law from Monash University.

Emma Thornton is Practice Leader, Employment and Industrial with Johnston Withers Lawyers. Ms Thornton has been Office Leader, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, Adelaide and Senior Associate at Lieschke & Weatherill Lawyers, and Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, Brisbane. Before then, Ms Thornton was Legal Officer with the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Co-ordinator of the Young Workers Legal Service and Associate with the Australian Industrial Relations Commission. Ms Thornton has a Bachelor of Law and Legal Practice from Flinders University.

Oanh Thi Tran is Principal Solicitor at the Young Workers Centre. Ms Tran has been National Legal and Industrial Officer with the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union, Manufacturing Division and Industrial Officer with the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia, Victorian Branch. Before then, Ms Tran was an Articled Clerk and Solicitor with Macrossans Lawyers, Brisbane and Judge’s Associate with the Hon Justice Roslyn G Atkinson at the Supreme Court of Queensland. Ms Tran has a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) and a Bachelor of Law (Hons) from the University of Queensland.

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