AIRC does not exercise judicial power - but sometimes a fine line

Cases

AIRC does not exercise judicial power - but sometimes a fine line

The AIRC has limited powers to hear matters that should be heard by a court of law.

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Key point: The AIRC has limited powers to hear matters that should be heard by a court of law. The following case looks at the question of how far the AIRC's powers extend.

The AIRC does not have the power to make judicial decisions, so any attempts to ascertain, declare or enforce existing rights are beyond its powers.

However, at times the Commission may need to form an opinion as to the existing legal rights of the parties as a step in arriving at conclusions.

Detail: The matter in dispute related to whether the Agreement had transmitted to Fyna Foods (Vic) Pty Ltd through the purchase of part of the business of K.L.Ballantyne Pty Ltd and whether the workers purported to be independent contractors supplied by CSA were in fact employees of Fyna Foods (Vic). 

This would mean that the Agreement was applicable to them.

There was no doubt that the Commission may, without exercising judicial power, decide questions which 'are not necessarily foreign to judicial power'.

Whether the Commission purports to exercise judicial power will depend upon the facts of the case and in particular upon whether the decision which is sought to be impugned is in truth an attempt to ascertain, declare or enforce existing rights['Waterside Workers Federation of Australia v JW Alexander Ltd' (1918) 25 CLR 434 at 463] or only a step in the proper exercise of the powers conferred upon the Commission by the Parliament.

‘A tribunal may find it necessary to form an opinion as to the existing legal rights of the parties as a step in arriving at the ultimate conclusions on which the tribunal bases the making of an award intended to regulate the future rights of the parties: 'Aberdare Collieries, at p.44.’[Re Cram; Ex parte The Newcastle Wallsend Coal Co. Pty Ltd (1987) 163 CLR 140 at 149]'.

The Commission may find it necessary to form an opinion as to the existing legal rights of the parties as a step in arriving at the conclusions on which it bases a decision resolving a dispute over the application of a certified agreement.

See: Automotive, Food, Metals, Engineering, Printing and Kindred Industries Union and others v Fyna Foods (Vic) Pty Ltd(K L Ballantyne), PR944521 (17 March 2004).

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