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Moore, Sir John Cochrane (Jack) (1915–1998)

by Greg Patmore

This article was published online in 2022

John Moore, by Anna Clements, 1968

John Moore, by Anna Clements, 1968

State Library of NSW, 110000147

Sir John Cochrane Moore (1915–1998), barrister and arbitrator, was born on 5 November 1915 in North Sydney, youngest of three surviving children of New South Wales-born parents Ernest Ward Moore, commercial traveller, and his wife Lucy Geraldine, née Cochrane. During his early years he was known as Jack, the name given to him at birth. He attended North Sydney Boys’ High School, from which he graduated in 1932. In March of that year, he joined the New South Wales Department of Attorney General and Justice as a junior clerk. He received further education at the University of Sydney (BA, 1936; LLB, 1940). While studying law part time, he worked as an associate to Justice David Ferguson of the New South Wales Industrial Commission, who influenced his later preference for conciliation rather than arbitration.

Moore was admitted to the Bar on 24 May 1940. Volunteering for service in World War II, he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 11 December that year and was commissioned in June 1941. For twelve months from March 1943, he served in Port Moresby, mainly at the headquarters of New Guinea Force, where he was promoted to temporary captain (September). He then completed (June–September 1944) the junior course at the Staff School (Australia). On 11 October 1944 he was a passenger in the Empire flying boat Coolangatta when it crashed in Sydney Harbour; he suffered a serious back injury, which would contribute to health problems later in life. After convalescing, he returned to the school as an instructor in April 1945. He transferred to the Reserve of Officers on 18 November. After recuperating, he joined the Department of External Affairs. His first posting (1946–47) was with Australia's inaugural mission to the United Nations, led by (Sir) Paul Hasluck. On 1 June 1946 he married Julia Drake-Brockman, a fellow member of the mission, at Christ Church Bronxville, New York. They returned to Sydney towards the end of 1947 and immediately began an ultimately unsuccessful fight for the survival of her career, which was threatened by the provision that married women in the public service must retire. Subsequently practising at the New South Wales Bar, he developed a significant clientele in the industrial relations arena, representing employers, government, and unions.

In 1959 Moore was appointed a deputy president of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission (from 1973 Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission). The president, (Sir) Richard Kirby, saw Moore as his successor and influenced his preference for a less formal style of proceedings. During the 1965 Basic Wage and Margins Case, Moore believed that industrial relations problems should take priority over creating or sustaining a favourable economic climate. He also held that if the commission failed to take account of past price changes, it would be an ‘industrial injustice’ and diminish its influence on wage determination (Hancock and Richardson 2004, 163). Furthermore, he refused to follow the majority judgement in the December 1967 metal trades work value decision. It directed that employers paying above the award were only obligated to remunerate employees such that their wages now equalled the new awards granted by the commission, as opposed to receiving the full increase. Following union protests, the commission altered the original decision, with his agreement.

Regarding them as fundamental matters of human rights, Moore also played a significant role in major cases relating to Indigenous and women workers. From 21 January 1965, he heard the test case presented by the North Australian Workers’ Union relating to the removal of discriminatory provisions against Indigenous workers in awards covering Northern Territory pastoral workers. While the commission agreed on 7 March 1966 to apply full award conditions to male Indigenous workers, it allowed employers until December 1968 to rationalise their operations before the award took full effect, and it conceded a lower rate of pay for ‘slow workers.’ He was involved in three equal pay cases for women, in 1969, 1972, and 1974, that ultimately led to the commission accepting the principle of equal pay.

In 1972 Moore became acting president of the commission, and the next year was appointed president; he held the position until late 1985. He was crucial in centralising the commission’s role in Australian wage determination through indexation from 1975 to 1981, and in the context of the Hawke government’s Prices and Incomes Accord with unions after 1983. To coordinate different jurisdictions, he initiated regular meetings with senior members of State industrial commissions. As president, he shifted the commission towards an approach of ‘accommodative arbitration,’ to seek ‘practical agreements on wage-fixing principles acceptable to the parties, mindful of, but not subservient to government policy’ (Macintyre 2004, 92).

Justice Jim Staples delivered a controversial speech on industrial relations in March 1980, and Moore subsequently removed him from his panel of industry cases. He was criticised for doing so, Justice Mary Gaudron resigning from the commission in protest. In 1984 Moore made a submission to the Hancock inquiry into the future of industrial relations. Critical of a proposed shift towards collective bargaining, his submission shaped Hancock’s recommendations. Following retirement, Moore served as chair of an advisory committee to the 1987 Constitutional Commission, reviewing the distribution of powers in the Australian Constitution, and as chair of the Stevedoring Industry Review Committee (1986–88).

Outside the commission, Moore played an active role in other industrial organisations. At their formation in 1958, he was a founding member of the Industrial Relations Society of New South Wales and the first life member of its national branch and attended international conferences on industrial relations. He was the inaugural chair of the Industrial Relations Research Centre (University of New South Wales) and chaired the Australian Centre for Industrial Relations Research and Teaching (University of Sydney). He also had a significant role in the heritage protection movement, serving as president of the National Trust of Australia (New South Wales) (1966–69) and Australian Council of National Trusts (1969–82).

Two years after Julia’s death in 1986, on 20 September 1988 Moore married Freda Beryl Wilson, a retired Australian trade commissioner, at the Norman Lindsay Gallery and Museum, Faulconbridge. He had been knighted in 1976 and was appointed AC in 1986. In 1989 he was awarded an honorary doctor of laws by the University of Sydney. Survived by his wife, and the two sons and two daughters of his first marriage, he died on 30 August 1998 at Lourdes Nursing Home, Killara, and was cremated. A ‘respected figure whom both union and employer representatives considered to be a dedicated conciliator’ (Herald Sun 1998, 97), he possessed a ‘gentle manner’ and sported a ‘Shavian beard’ that was a ‘hirsute allusion to another untiring social reformer’ (Uniken 1987, 1). His son Timothy was a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly (1976–92), a government minister (1989–92), and from 2016 a judge of the State Land and Environment Court.

Research edited by Matthew Cunneen

Select Bibliography

  • Carney, Shaun. Australia in Accord: Politics and Industrial Relations under the Hawke Government. South Melbourne, Vic.: Macmillan, 1988
  • d’Alpuget, Blanche. Mediator: A Biography of Sir Richard Kirby. Clayton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1977
  • Hancock, Keith, and Sue Richardson. ‘Economic and Social Effects.’ In The New Province for Law and Order: 100 Years of Australian Conciliation and Arbitration, edited by Joe Isaac and Stuart Macintyre, 139–206. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004
  • Hasluck, Paul. Diplomatic Witness: Australian Foreign Affairs 1941–1947. Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1980
  • Herald Sun. ‘Sir John Moore: Respected by Both Sides.’ 4 September 1998, 97
  • Kitay, Jim, and Paul McCarthy. ‘Jim Staples and the Politics of Australian Industrial Arbitration.’ Journal of Industrial Relations 31, no. 3 (1989): 310–33
  • Macintyre, Stuart. ‘Arbitration in Action.’ In The New Province for Law and Order: 100 Years of Australian Conciliation and Arbitration, edited by Joe Isaac and Stuart Macintyre, 55–97. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004
  • Moore, Tim. ‘Influential referee of Industrial Relations.’ Australian, 3 September 1998, 14
  • Patmore, Greg. Australian Labour History. Melbourne: Longman Cheshire, 1991
  • Patmore, Greg. ‘Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration in New South Wales before 1988.’ In Laying the Foundations of Industrial Justice: The Presidents of the Industrial Relations Commission of NSW 1902–1998, edited by Greg Patmore, 5–66. Leichhardt, NSW: Federation Press, 2003
  • Uniken (Sydney). ‘Sir John Moore … Enthusiasm for Industrial Relations in No Way Diminished.’ 3 April 1987, 1

Additional Resources

Citation details

Greg Patmore, 'Moore, Sir John Cochrane (Jack) (1915–1998)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/moore-sir-john-cochrane-jack-32269/text39938, published online 2022, accessed online 3 December 2022.

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