The president of the Fair Work Commission (FWC), Justice Iain Ross has been challenged within a Senate Committee to explain the trade union linkages between members of the FWC expert superannuation panel and his own former employment as an official of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).
As well, Justice Ross was asked whether the former involvement of one of his remaining expert superannuation panel members, Arthur Apted, with AustralianSuper might be construed as representing a conflict of interest.
Ross pointed out that if there were any issues with respect to perceived conflicts of interest, they should properly raised in the Federal Court but that members of any of the Fair Work Commission had a continuing obligation to notify him of conflicts of interest if they were to arise.
On the question on his former employment by the ACTU and the ACTU backgrounds of a number of members of the Fair Work Commission and FWC panels, Ross pointed out that those dated back over 25 years and he did not see them as relevant today.
Further, Ross made clear to the Senate committee that he had not been involved in the selection of the members of the FWC expert superannuation panel and that he had simply received notification of those to make-up the panel from the office of the former Minister for Workplace Relations and now Federal Opposition leader, Bill Shorten.
The immediate future of the FWC expert superannuation panel is now in the hands of the Minister for Employment, Senator Eric Abetz, with Justice Ross have requested the minister appoint a replacement member for Vicki Allen, one of two members stood aside due to perceived conflicts of interest.