This Research Report is predominantly a descriptive examination of the two major industrial authorities with jurisdiction in Queensland. The objective of the paper is firstly to consider the history of the Commonwealth and Queensland Conciliation and Arbitration Commissions and then to compare the historical and jurisdictional issues which have impacted on the Commissions in terms of their day-to-day operations. A brief description of other industrial authorities is also included to complete the picture of the formal regulation of industrial relations in this state.
Industrial tribunals have had arguably a greater impact on the lives of Australians than any other judicial or quasi-judicial body ever created by governments. Their powerful position in the setting of the conditions of employment for the majority of the Australian workforce has at times brought them into bitter conflict with governments, trade unions and employers. This paper attempts to describe the resilience of the two tribunals in question and their capacity to survive and grow despite countless attempts to curb or usurp their position in the regulation of industrial relations.
Wage cases, legislative amendments, major industrial disputes and significant High Court rulings serve as the vehicle for the examination. Australia's unique system of industrial regulation, despite its obvious limitations, is founded in law but has continued to function because of its general acceptance by the major players in Australian industrial relations. The role of law is nevertheless central "to both the history and comparison chapters in this paper. The Australian Constitution, it will be argued, is fundamental in understanding the development of the Commonwealth Commission and its gradual rise to dominance in the regulation of industrial relations in this country.