The Chair of the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee, Senator Bridget McKenzie, today called on Mr Tim Harcourt to step down as a Fair Work Commission (FWC) Expert Panel Member.
“FWC President, Justice Iain Ross, has written to me, conveying his view that on several occasions Mr Harcourt breached the FWC Code of Conduct by appearing to be politically biased towards the Labor Party,” she said.
Justice Ross’ intervention was the result of complaints by former Senator Helen Kroger that Mr Harcourt had:
- made ‘tweets’ critical of the Government’s Budget speech and complimentary of Mr Shorten’s Budget reply;
- conducted a television interview in which he appeared to confirm he was a member of the ALP, discussed the possibility of seeking Labor preselection and supported Mr Shorten in the contest for Labor Leader; and
- was a “special guest host” at a $1000 a head ALP fundraiser.
Justice Ross has now twice had to counsel Mr Harcourt that his behaviour has put public confidence in the Fair Work Commission at risk, Senator McKenzie said.
“By his various public comments and activity, Mr Harcourt had repeatedly aligned himself with the Labor side of politics.
“These actions betray a lack of judgement one would ordinarily expect from a member of the Commission.
“Mr Harcourt should put the integrity of the Commission ahead of his personal interests and resign from the Expert Panel.
“Given there is currently a process in train to replace a conflicted Expert Panel member who resigned, Mr Harcourt should also now resign, so his replacement can be considered as part of that selection process.”
Senator McKenzie added the Harcourt controversy was the latest chapter in a fiasco which had already seen five instances of Expert Panel members swapped or dropped, following their appointment by former Workplace Relations Minister, Bill Shorten, just prior to the caretaker period before the last election.
“This fiasco is the direct result of Bill Shorten’s efforts to stack the Fair Work Commission with Labor partisans,” she said.