ALLA 5th Biennial Conference 2010
ALLA held its Fifth ALLA Biennial Conference in Adelaide from 19 - 20 November 2010 at the Stamford Grand Hotel in Glenelg.
The main theme of the conference was the ongoing changes that are occurring to Australian labour law. In particular, the conference examined the way in which the new Fair Work legislation was being interpreted and applied, and also the process for harmonising Australia's occupational health and safety legislation.
The conference was held at a time when the new Fair Work legislation was still in the process of being bedded down, and there remained many questions as to how it was being, or should be, interpreted or applied. Many of the sessions at the conference considered those questions, featuring some of the leading experts in the field.
Also examined was the rocky road towards the harmonisation of occupational health and safety laws – a long-cherished goal of many reformers, but one that continues to present tremendous practical and political challenges, despite the Intergovernmental Agreement that has led to the creation of Safe Work Australia and the drafting of a Model Work Health and Safety Bill.
ALLA was excited to host Leigh Johns as Keynote Speaker on Friday morning, in his new capacity as Australian Building and Construction Commissioner. There followed a panel discussion on the Fair Work Act in Operation, and two concurrent sessions on 'Enforcement and Dispute Resolution', and 'Enterprise Bargaining'. After lunch, the afternoon's concurrent sessions addressed 'General Protections and Discrimination', 'Special Types of Worker', 'Minimum Standards', and 'National and International Perspectives'. The Saturday program began with a panel discussion on the Harmonisation of Australia's OHS Laws, and concluded with concurrent sessions on 'OHS and Regulatory Complexity', and 'Work, Freedom and Mobility'. Saturday's sessions were followed by the ALLA AGM, and the conference was officially closed at 1pm.
ALLA and the Federation Press were very pleased to host a launch for the Right to Strike in Australia, written by ALLA Secretary Dr Shae McCrystal. The book was launched during pre-dinner drinks on Friday 19 November, by Justice Peter Gray of the Federal Court of Australia.
Phillipa Weeks Prize
This prize recognises the contribution of Professor Phillipa Weeks to Australian labour law scholarship and her unswerving support of young and upcoming scholars. It is awarded at each ALLA National Conference for the best paper presented by an emerging scholar, and is co-sponsored by ALLA and the Federation Press. The 2010 Phillipa Weeks Prize was awarded to Richard Naughton for his paper 'The Low Paid Bargaining Scheme – An interesting idea, but can it work?' Richard was presented with a copy of Comparative Labour Law and Industrial Relations in Industrialized Market Economies (10th Edition) edited by Roger Blanpain, and a book voucher from Prize co-sponsors Federation Press.
ALLA is proud to thank principal sponsors the Fair Work Ombudsman, The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, and Safework SA. ALLA would also like to acknowledge conference supporter Workplace Express and conference exhibitor The Federation Press.
Pre-Conference Workshops on Teaching & Research
Two workshops were held at the University of Adelaide Law School prior to the formal commencement of the ALLA National Conference, entitled 'Teaching Labour Law' and 'Doing Empirical Research in Labour Law'. Both were very well attended, practical and thought provoking.
Teaching Labour Law
The Teaching Labour Law workshop, organised by Joo-Cheong Tham, provided a forum for teachers of Australian labour law – broadly construed – to come together in a collegial environment and discuss challenging questions faced in teaching, such as: What are the purposes of teaching Australian labour law? What are the core areas to be taught? How should I structure the syllabus? Which text best suits my students' learning needs and styles? What innovative forms of assessment have other teachers used? And, how can I best engage my students in current debates and issues?
Empirical Research in Labour Law
The Empirical Research workshop, organised by Richard Johnstone and Belinda Smith, was designed to address a growing interest among labour law researchers in questions of how to do empirical studies - in asking 'what happens in practice'. There were presentations by researchers who have undertaken different types of empirical studies. Richard Johnstone introduced the workshop, discussing participant observation, documentary research and theory building. Andrew Frazer spoke on theory and socio-legal research, Richard Mitchell on assessing the impact of employment legislation, Liz Bluff on qualitative interviewing and theory building, and John Howe on researching the impact and effectiveness of employment regulation. A fruitful discussion followed, and participants also received a list of publications to consult in order to further develop their capacity to undertake empirical research.
The workshops were presented with the kind support of the University of Adelaide, the Centre for Employment and Labour Relations Law at the University of Melbourne, the Workplace and Corporate Law Research Group at Monash University, and the Sydney Law School Labour Law Cluster.
For further information, please see the ALLA Pre-Conference Workshops 2010 flyer.