A PUBLIC stoush has developed between the Queensland Law Society (QLS) and the Electrical Trade Union (ETU) state secretary following his public attack on the professional background of a lawyer and his suitability for appointment as chairman of Energex.
In a letter to the ETU state secretary, the Queensland Law Society defended Minter Ellison partner Khory McCormich.
Law Society president Glenn Ferguson stated in the letter that he understood that the state secretary of the union, Dick Williams, would have unhappy memories of the events surrounding the South East Queensland Electricity Board (SEQEB) dispute in 1985, “but it is regrettable that you should attempt to challenge [McCormick’s] appointment simply because he provided some professional legal advice at that time to the then Government”.
Ferguson assured the state secretary of the union that the lawyer was a practitioner of absolute integrity and independence “who has an enviable reputation in our profession”.
It would be a sad day for public administration, according to Ferguson, if an eminently well-qualified person were denied consideration for a senior position because of who happened to be on his or her client list.
“I am sure that you would appreciate also that the Queensland Law Society has the clear duty to defend our members from any unwarranted attacks upon their good names and reputations as does the ETU,” Ferguson said.
The ETU state secretary said “as all good trade unions or professional associations should, I congratulate you on your spirited defence of your member”.
Williams accepted that the lawyer may have acted in a professional manner, but said it must be appreciated that [McCormick] was brought in as a “hired gun” to deal with so called “Renegade Unions” in 1985.
On that day, said Williams, he was brought in by the Government and the SEQEB to “do a job on the union”, “which in my mind and the union’s view went far beyond your contentions of ‘professional legal advice’ at that time to the then Government”.
“I point out that McCormick has a significant history within industrial relations circles in Queensland and unfortunately it is something of a curiosity that it seems to the ETU that it is only so called militant unions that come up against [McCormick] in a professional capacity,” said Williams.