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City Desk
25 August, 2008  
Jolly Roger Boland and the Della two-step

“Backwards with Fairness.” NSW’s top IR judge misses his minister. “I want Della back,” declares distressed judge. State roundsperson Alex Mitchell files this report

imageJustice (Jolly) Roger Boland, president of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, has urged the quick return of suspended cabinet minister John Della Bosca (pic) to his position as industrial relations minister.

He made the remarks in an address to the Industrial Relations Society on Thursday (Aug. 21), as MortaDella waits to learn whether he faces criminal charges following the unseemly fracas at Gosford’s Iguana noshery on June 6.

Boland laid on his adoration for MortaDella rather thickly.

“I hope Mr Della Bosca will be in a position, sooner rather than later, to resume his office and bring to bear the undoubted leadership, experience and influence that he has hitherto displayed in the negotiations with the Commonwealth about the future shape of the industrial relations system.

“In his absence, there may be a natural tendency for the Commonwealth to feel less inclined to pay regard to states’ interests.”

It’s not every day you see a judge lauding the pollie with ministerial responsibility for his jurisdiction.

His remarks were all the more cringe-making because they came on the eve of a meeting between federal Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard and her state counterparts to discuss progress on the creation of a new federal IR system.

imageJolly Roger and Della, husband of (Typhoon) Belinda (pic) are in step when it comes to the future of IR.

Both are for “harmonising” but they strongly support the retention of the basic framework of the NSW system.

Boland told the IR Society that it would be “incomprehensible” to jettison the NSW IR system unless there was a better one to replace it – and no credible commentator had suggested there was.

“The commission is a unique beast; it is both a court and industrial tribunal endowed with a broad discretion that gives it the flexibility required to be adaptive and innovative. It offers the benefit of a one-stop shop; the full spectrum of resources necessary to conciliate, recommend, regulate, direct, adjudicate, declare, and, if necessary, coerce and punish.”

Justice Boland said that if a harmonised national IR system was not achieved, “one might imagine the commission will stay as it is” – a position completely in accord with the line advocated by Della.

This is not the first time Boland has sashayed into the political ring to back Bosca on the question of preserving the state’s anachronistic IR structure.

In May he told the IR Society he rejected as “unconvincing” the arguments in favour of centralising IR in Canberra, adding it was a pity the Rudd government didn’t have greater regard for the NSW system in developing “Forward with Fairness”.

He said that while he respected the force of some of the arguments in favour of giving the Commonwealth control over IR regulation, “much of the rest rises no higher than sloganeering”.

He said he hoped that as much as possible of the state system was preserved, “along with what I regard as the priceless collection of knowledge, expertise and experience that resides individually and collectively in the deputy presidents and the commissioners of the commission and judges of the court”.

This eager protection of the turf drew appreciative applause from minister MortaDella, who has been leading a lonely fight in the NSW cabinet for retention of the century-old system.

The other faction led by Treasurer Michael (Get Fucked) Costa wants to pass the parcel to Canberra.

When Gillard met state industrial relations ministers at the Workplace Relations Ministerial Council in Sydney on Friday (Aug. 22), the decision to announce a new national structure was postponed because it would have further jeopardised Premier Mauritzio Iemma’s plan to push through enabling legislation for the privatisation of the NSW power industry.

Gillard and other state ministers were asked to delay the decision because it would inflame Unions NSW.

The poor old bruvvers backed Iemma at the March 2007 state election when he campaigned with all the heavy handed gusto he could muster that Opposition Leader Peter Debnam was going to “sell out” NSW workers and the NSWIRC to the Howard government.

Friday’s communique said ministers had discussed a “broad timeframe” for considering the draft IR legislation and provided Gillard with an “agreed position on key issues”.

When Boland was appointed El Presidente on April 1, succeeding Justice Lance Wright, there was concern in the the NSW government’s ranks that he was “too much of a Tory”.

Formerly IR director for the employers’ group, the Metal Trades Industry Association (now the Australian Industry Group), the 60-year-old barrister had fought many battles against the unions before joining the court in 2000.

Labor’s fears have proved groundless.

His support for the “incommunicado” minister will sound sweetly in Della’s rusticated ear.