Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission

PSAB Board member application for recusal dismissed

The Public Service Appeal Board (Board) has unanimously found that the respondent’s application that a PSAB Board member not sit as a member of the Appeal Board for an appeal be dismissed.

The respondent filed an application that a Board member recuse herself on the grounds of reasonable apprehension of bias. 

The respondent submitted that there was a direct association between the Board member and the appellant by way of their respective relationships with the Australian Medical Association (WA) (AMA). The Board member is a senior industrial officer of the AMA, while the appellant is a member of the AMA. The respondent submitted that by virtue of the Board member’s position with the AMA, her impartiality to the matter would be impeded.

The Board considered the legal principles relating to an apprehension of bias by association, including considerations concerning the nature of the association, frequency of contact and nature of the interest of the person with the decision-maker.

The Board discussed the implications of s 80H of the Industrial Relations Act 1979 (WA) which specifies that the members of the Board shall include two members. It provides that one member shall be appointed by the employer of the appellant as the employer’s representative, and the other as the employee’s representative appointed by the relevant organisation. A person nominated will, by nomination alone, have some association with the body nominating them, as an employee or officer.

In addition, it was noted that Board members, regardless of any necessary association, do not represent the interests of the party that nominated them and are required to act impartially and independently.

The decision can be read here.

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