'In Short He is a Stupid Man': The Judges and the Arbitration Court, 1891-1928
Turnbull Library Record, Vol. 29, pp. 59-78, 1996
21 Pages Posted: 4 Sep 2009 Last revised: 10 Sep 2009
Date Written: August 31, 2009
In the 1890s, New Zealand legislators established the Arbitration Court as an ad hoc system for settling industrial disputes; by the mid-twentieth century the Court had become a pillar of New Zealand's welfare state. This transformation did not proceed smoothly, however, because of a mismatch between the mission and its managers. The judges who presided over the court were more interested in legal principles and forensic debate than the bargains of workers and their employers. They considered their tenure as a purgatory to be endured until they were promoted to full-time service on the New Zealand Supreme Court. This mismatch resulted because the Court evolved into an institution that differed from the founders' intent and because a dearth of other professionals left only the judiciary as a vehicle for putting the resolution of industrial disputes beyond the reach of partisan politics.
This article is reproduced by kind permission of the Friends of the Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand (www.turnbullfriends.org.nz).
Keywords: Labor, Courts, New Zealand
JEL Classification: J52, K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation