Geoff Guidice (1947-2021)

There are people who are too little appreciated for what they have done, even though they have done a great deal. One of these is the just-departed former Chief Judge of Fair Work Australia, Geoff Guidice. I am devastated to learn he has now departed from this life.

I came to know him when I was writing economic submissions for the National Wage Case on behalf of Australian Employers. He became the advocate when our previous advocate, Colin Polites, who had also passed away at a depressingly early age, was appointed as a Deputy President on the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (the AIRC). Colin had been for many years a great comic tenor in a variety of Gilbert and Sullivan productions and brought the same colour to his oral submissions.

Geoff was a completely different kind of advocate which I grew to admire for its surprising effectiveness since it was such a contrast to Colin’s. He would calmly and in a low-key manner, read the lines into transcript, but every so often would stop, and say something like, “I would particularly like to emphasise this” and tap his pencil on the lectern. And that tap would sound like an explosion across the courtroom, as everyone bent forward to hear what these special words would be.

He was a great advocate, and following that, he was a great President firstly for the AIRC and then after that, as the first President of the newly formed Fair Work Australia. What was so important to myself, in presenting my own economic submissions after I had taken over from Geoff, but only for the economic submissions – not the parts dealing with industrial law – was that I knew he would be fair and balanced when the decision was finally crafted. That, perhaps surprisingly, is all that we on the employer side ever sought.

And with his having been our advocate in the past, there was never any doubt he knew what the issues were and what really mattered.

Oddly, after he had left Fair Work Australia and I had gone on to other endeavours, we would occasionally bump into each other just by chance, with the most astonishing such meeting at the National Gallery in London one day out of the blue.

He had the sunniest disposition and was always kind and gentle. It was always the greatest pleasure to meet up with him. He has departed from this life far too soon. But his was an eventful life, one whose achievements will, I fear, be much too little appreciated since they occurred in the midst of an arena whose importance remains all too little understood.

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