Hearsay ... the Journal of the Bar Association of Queensland
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A Tribute to David Hall Former President of the Industrial Court of Queensland Print E-mail

DDavid-Hall-intro.jpgavid Ross Hall ceased being the President of the Industrial Court of Queensland on 4 October 2013. He had served as the President of the Industrial Court of Queensland from 2 August 1999 until 4 October 2013. This period of over fourteen years made him one of the longest serving Industrial Court Presidents since the Court’s inception in 1961. His appointment as President of the Industrial Court was not his first appointment to a bench. Between 1992 and 1993 he served on a full time basis as a Deputy President of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission but relinquished that role (but not the commission) on 1 March 1993 to become the Chief Industrial Commissioner of the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission, which position he held until his appointment as President of the Industrial Court.

I first came to know David when he was employed as a tutor in the faculty of Law at the University of Queensland. He was my tutor in Contract Law and later became my lecturer in Commercial Law and then in Industrial Law. He was an excellent lecturer with an ability to explain legal concepts in an easily comprehensible way. His lectures were peppered with references to villainous defendants known as “sly and simple” and absconding miscreants who “hit the toe”. During his academic career he wrote articles for the University of Queensland Law Journal and the Australian Law Journal.

I became actively involved with David when we co-authored a book entitled “Industrial Laws of Queensland” which was an annotation of the then Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1961 and the Wages Act 1918. We commenced the task of writing the manuscript in about 1975 and completed it some six years later. It was a massive task which involved reading all of the reported industrial cases in Queensland commencing with volume 1 of the Queensland Industrial Gazette which was first published in 1916. At the time of the book’s writing industrial and employment law was completely different in its practice to the way that it is practised now. At that time lawyers hardly ever set foot in the Queensland Industrial Commission (then known as “The Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Commission”) and appearances were mainly confined to the Industrial Court of Queensland. Queensland awards and the Queensland Industrial Act dominated employee entitlements and the jurisdiction of the Queensland Industrial Commission was jealously guarded against intrusions from its federal counterpart, the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. There was no readily identifiable industrial bar in Queensland as compared to New South Wales and Victoria where industrial law specialists were well known. David Hall would have been the go to lawyer for industrial issues in Queensland at this time.

About the time of the publication of the second edition of Industrial Laws of  Queensland David gave up his full time academic career to pursue a career at the bar. Surprisingly I was not in many cases in which he was involved although we were both junior counsel (he for the Commonwealth of Australia) in cases in the High Court of Australia which arose out of the mid-1980’s industrial dispute in the Queensland electricity industry known as the “SEQEB dispute”.

One case that I do recall with some clarity is a matter in the Federal Court of Australia heard before Justice Peter Gray who has since retired. Justice Gray was then relatively newly appointed to the Federal Court having enjoyed an outstanding career at the Victorian Bar and was one of those industrial law specialists that I have referred to above. The case itself involved a prosecution under what was then section 5 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904 (Cth.). Basically the allegation was that my client, a meat processor, had failed to engage former employees because they were members of a particular union. These days we would categorise such conduct under the heading of freedom of association.

David appeared for a number of the former employees although the prosecution itself was in the name of the particular union. I was lead for the first part of the proceedings by a Sydney junior counsel who had extensive experience in the meat industry. David called his first witness who was one of the former employees. After this witness gave his evidence-in-chief he was then cross-examined for about two and a half days by the counsel leading me. At the end of the cross examination there was little if any re-examination and David asked for the witness to be excused. Justice Gray as a courtesy turned to the counsel leading me and asked him if he had any objection to the witness being excused. Counsel said that he would prefer the witness not to be excused because there may be further questions he might need to ask. That comment drew the acerbic rebuke from Justice Gray “I doubt it”.

David Hall performed his duties as President of the Industrial Court in an exemplary fashion. His decisions were usually succinct and delivered not long after the date of the hearing. He was courteous and ensured that those who appeared before him, particularly litigants in person, could leave his courtroom knowing that they had been given a fair hearing.

The writer understands that David Hall’s health has suffered and I hope with his retirement he can fully recover to his former robust self

Ken Watson

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