It is arguably the most important industrial relations decision ever handed down – the 1907 Harvester Judgement.
It established the principle that employees are entitled to a wage guaranteeing them a standard of living that is reasonable for "a human being in a civilised community," regardless of the employer’s capacity to pay. In other words, the basic wage, which remains a critical element in Australian economic and social life.
Its architect was Henry Bournes Higgins, another historically significant Equity Trustees director of Irish heritage who played an important role in the later years of the colony and the early years of federation, whether in Parliament (he briefly served in the 1904 Labor Government as Attorney-General, the only non-Labor Party member to ever do so), on the High Court or the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, where he served as president from 1907 to 1921 and handed down the famous Harvester decision.
Higgins gave Equity Trustees 17 years as a director, from 1889 to 1906, only stepping down when appointed to the High Court.