Contrasting Systems? 100 Years of Arbitration in Australia and New Zealand

18 Pages Posted: 21 Dec 2004

See all articles by Michael Barry

Michael Barry

Griffith University

Nick Wailes

University of Sydney


Supporters of collective employment regulation in New Zealand would have celebrated a centenary of arbitration a full decade before Australia, in 1994. Yet fate intervened and New Zealand's arbitration system formally collapsed in 1991 following the introduction of the Employment Contracts Act. Despite a series of challenges during different periods, the Australian arbitration system has survived, if badly scathed, to see its 100-year anniversary. The present paper traces the historical similarities and differences in the advent, development and decline of the Australian and New Zealand systems of compulsory arbitration. Given the many structural similarities between the two systems, the paper explores important differences in the economic and political interests that both underlay the introduction and development of the two systems, and contributed to the earlier demise of the New Zealand system. The experience of the more extensive labour market reform in New Zealand provides some salutary lessons for those seeking further changes to weaken the Australian arbitration system.

Suggested Citation

Barry, Michael and Wailes, Nick, Contrasting Systems? 100 Years of Arbitration in Australia and New Zealand. Available at SSRN:

Michael Barry (Contact Author)

Griffith University ( email )

170 Kessels Road
Nathan, QLD 4111 QLD 4111

Nick Wailes

University of Sydney ( email )

H69 - The Economics and Business Building, Room 52
Sydney NSW 2006
+61 2 9351 7870 (Phone)
+61 2 9351 4729 (Fax)

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