Senate debates

Wednesday, 9 February 2011


Mr Bill Mansfield

7:39 pm

Photo of Doug CameronDoug Cameron (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Bill Mansfield spent the majority of his working life in industrial relations and had a distinguished career in the trade union movement. He became active in trade unionism as a young man and in 1963 was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Telecommunications Employees Associa-tion. In 1966 he moved to the federal office of the union, where he held various senior positions. In 1977 he was elected federal secretary of the union, a position he held until 1985. In 1985 Bill was elected Assistant Secretary of the ACTU, a position he held until 2002 when he was appointed as a Commissioner of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.

Bill represented the union movement on the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission and the Comcare Commission. Bill Mansfield was a forthright, clear and persuasive advocate for working Australians. Bill defended the interests of Australian workers for nearly 40 years. When he was appointed by the Howard government as a member of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, he gave everyone a fair hearing and his compassion, impartiality and keen intellect made him a very successful member of the tribunal.

Bill’s career as a union official was marked by his commitment to study and learning. Bill believed that workers should have opportunities for training and education. Bill knew that this was essential so that people could advance themselves. He made a significant contribution to vocational education and training, serving as a member of the Australian National Training Authority board. Bill was a key member of this board, which was established to advance opportunities for the vocational education and training of the Australian workforce. It was one of Bill’s passions to ensure that people had the opportunity of education and training that would help them in their working career.

Bill also had a passionate commitment to, and an understanding of, the importance of international trade unionism and institutions like the International Labour Organisation. Bill was an Australian delegate to the ILO and contributed to the development of conventions that continue to help working people internationally. This will be one of his lasting legacies.

Bill also understood the need for occupational health and safety. He served for a significant period as a member of the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission and provided a wealth of knowledge on occupational health and safety matters, and he supplied this knowledge to the ACTU and its affiliates. Bill was held in such high regard by the ACTU that he held the position of ACTU returning officer until his death.

Bill’s high reputation in the business community is epitomised by the statement from the Chief Executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Peter Anderson:

Australia’s business organisations and the employer community more broadly, are deeply saddened at today’s news of the passing of Bill Mansfield.

As one of Australia’s leading labour relations practitioners, Bill was widely respected by ACCI and the business sector both in his senior career in the trade union movement, and subsequently on the Australian Industrial Relations Commission ...

That he was appointed from the ACTU to statutory office in the AIRC by a conservative government is illustrative of his standing.

I think Bill was the only trade union official appointed by the Howard government to the AIRC, and I think that speaks volumes for Bill’s credibility. The statement continued:

I and other colleagues also served alongside Bill on the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission. Bill was instrumental in working with industry and governments on the 10-year National Occupational Health and Safety Strategy being adopted in 2002, which for the first time included performance targets.

Bill was also a person of international renown, elected to the governing body of the ILO.

The President of Fair Work Australia, the Hon. Geoff Gieudece, paid the following tribute to Bill:

Bill Mansfield was appointed to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission by the then coalition government in September 2002 after 39 years as a full-time union official, the last 17 of them as an assistant secretary of the ACTU. Apart from the dedication to improving the conditions of working people, Bill also involved himself in broader issues such as vocational education and training, occupational health and safety and worked extensively with the ILO.

Many people might not know that he left Wangaratta Technical College in year 10 at 15 years of age, subsequently qualified as a communications technician, studied years 11 and 12 at night school and then studied law part-time at the University of Melbourne, graduating in 1972 at the age of 30. Bill was regarded as a very good appointment by all sides. He had a very practical approach to dispute settlement and was a very effective conciliator. He made a great contribution to the collegiate and social life of the commission. He was also known for appearing at odd times with a screwdriver or an electric drill to carry out minor repairs to office furniture. Even after his retirement in February 2007 he maintained a strong interest in the institution and regularly attended social events.

All his colleagues at Fair Work Australia are saddened by his death particularly as it came so soon after his retirement.

Bill Mansfield was a great friend of the legendary Australian trade unionist Laurie Carmichael. Laurie served with Bill as an assistant secretary of the ACTU and regarded him as a fine friend, a great bloke and someone who never did anything nasty to anyone. Laurie advised me yesterday that factionalism, issues of left and right, was never a factor for Bill Mansfield. Bill did what he believed was good and right.

I want to thank Bill’s family for the sacrifices that they have made over the years to allow Bill to make such a magnificent contribution to the Australian trade union movement and Australian society. Bill was a man of great dignity, intellect and competence. He was a man of values. He will be sadly missed by all his friends. His death is a great loss to all who believe in fairness, justice and equity. Vale Bill Mansfield, a union man, a great servant of the Australian trade union movement, a great servant of Australia.