Proposed federal ir laws: possible high court challenge

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Proposed federal ir laws: possible high court challenge

There are reports in the media regarding a potential ‘show down’ between the NSW and Federal governments over proposed changes to federal industrial laws.

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There are reports in the media regarding a potential ‘show down’ between the NSW and Federal governments over proposed changes to federal industrial laws. The Sydney Morning Herald reports today that the NSW Government has foreshadowed a possible High Court challenge if its own proposed new industrial laws are obstructed by the Federal Government’s industrial reforms.

In particular it seems that the most contentious issue is the NSW Government’s intention to introduce laws which would allow preference of employment for trade union members. In contrast, the Federal Government has stated that its laws would remove preference of employment clauses from existing federal awards in keeping with its long time policy that membership of any industrial organisation be completely voluntary.

To this extent there looms a possible clash between the industrial agendas of both governments. In an interview on ABC radio this morning, the Prime Minister , Mr Howard, indicated that in the event of a clash, the Federal Government may use constitutional powers to override the NSW laws.

In the same interview, the Prime Minister said that the Federal Government’s industrial laws would not be passed in a piecemeal fashion, but instead would be presented to both houses of Parliament as a whole package. With the possibility of a hostile Senate, the new laws may be delayed while the Federal Government negotiates the passage of the Bill with other parties, such as the Australian Democrats.

In such a situation, employers may have to continue the wait for changes to the current unfair dismissal laws which have attracted the bulk of controversy since the laws came into operation two years ago.

In the meantime applications for relief regarding unfair dismissal continue to pour into the Australian Industrial Relations Commission. The effect of these laws is reflected in the fact that nearly fifty unfair dismissal files have been opened by the Australian Business Chamber in the past three months and the Chamber’s ‘Managing Dismissals’ seminars continue to be well attended by those wishing to understand their obligations in the difficult area of employment termination.

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