The Federal Government was trying to undermine the independence of the Industrial Relations Commission by appointing five conservatives to the Commission bench today, the ACTU said.

Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott had turned his back on Australian traditions of fair play by abandoning the historic practice of consulting widely with industrial parties about the appointments, said ACTU President Sharan Burrow.

“Mr Abbott is continuing the anti-worker and anti-union bias of his predecessor Peter Reith by trying to stack the Commission to suit his political purposes. The political motives of the Government are highlighted by the fact that the appointments were made on the eve of an election campaign,” Ms Burrow said.

Today’s appointments follow a raft of appointments by Mr Reith earlier this year, including that of former Telstra executive Rob Cartwright. The Federal Court this week fined Telstra $75,000 for discriminating against award employees in a Telstra email sent by Mr Cartwright in June last year.

“Prime Minister John Howard and Minister Abbott are trying to destroy the independent umpire and undermine bipartisanship and political neutrality in industrial relations. Mr Abbot’s blatant ant-worker bias is un-Australian and an insult to the independence of the Commission.

“The Howard Government has run down the resources of the Commission and refused repeated requests for more appointments to cope with a backlog of work over the last year. Now, on election-eve, a raft of appointments are made to suit the Government’s political convenience.”

Ms Burrow said the Government’s attempts to undermine the independence of the Commission ignored widespread public support for an independent umpire in industrial disputes.