This thesis examines the possibility of an Australian federal government being able to implement a wages policy, with the presence of the independent wage fixing tribunal (the Commission). This is important given the government's lack of constitutional power over wages.
The hypothesis to be tested is that the Commission plays a positive role and assists the Government, overtime, in implementing policy. A related issue is whether or not the Government has to provide mechanisms to support any principles enunciated by the Commission. The Commission is able to assist by the authority of its decisions and the coordination of the industrial relations process.
An examination is also made of the existence and influence of conventions that are applied by the Commission, for example, the preservation of real wages.
Related to the hypothesis and existence of conventions is the extent to which the Commission acts as an economic tribunal as opposed to its constitutional role of preventing and settling industrial disputes.
The purpose for the thesis is to establish the role of the Commission in Government policy making. This is interesting from an historical perspective and has contemporary relevance since the Commission has the function of setting wages for the award safety net which underpins enterprise bargaining in the 1990s.
The methodology used in the thesis is the analysis of Commission decisions. The analysis is carried out within a framework based on European and Scandinavian experience. Available policy options emerge from this, for example, the option of including trade unions in the policy process. Taking the study from 1975 to 1991 allows the analysis to be applied to the 3 wage policy periods; wage indexation, the award by award decentralised episode and a shift to managed decentralisation as enterprise bargaining became dominant as opposed to the traditional centralisation.
It is concluded that overall Government wage policies were accommodated by the Commission within its conventions. The extent of this is determined by the degree to which the Government is prepared to provide supporting mechanisms where appropriate. The support from the industrial parties for the policies is shown to be a contributing factor.