Shake-up of NSW Industrial Court continues

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Shake-up of NSW Industrial Court continues

The NSW Government has introduced its legislation to handle the sharp decline in workload of the Industrial Relations Commission.

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The NSW Government has introduced its legislation to handle the sharp decline in workload of the Industrial Relations Commission.

Attorney General, Greg Smith, introduced the Industrial Relations Amendment (Industrial Court) Bill 2013 yesterday, 16 October. The Bill will allow a number of matters to be heard by the NSW Industrial Relations Commission and for NSW Industrial Relations Court judges to sit on the Supreme Court and vice versa, in order to meet temporary increases in workload. The legislation also transfers appeals from decisions of a single judge of the Industrial Court to a division of the Supreme Court.

Judges retiring
 
Four of the Industrial Court’s five judges announced last month their intention to retire before the mandatory retirement age of 72, due to the reduction in the Industrial Court’s workload. Mr Smith made clear that the Industrial Court will remain part of the Industrial Relations Commission and will continue to hear industrial law matters. There will be only one full-time judge on the Court.
 
The Act is amended to allow for circumstances where the Industrial Relations Act currently requires three judges to hear a matter. These matters include: ‘proceedings for contempt, appeals from the Local Court, public sector promotional and disciplinary appeals, appeals regarding the summary dismissal of police officers, deregistration of industrial organisations and appeals from decisions made by a single judge of the Industrial Court.’
 
Now to be heard by a single judge
 
Proceedings for contempt, appeals from the Local Court and promotional and disciplinary appeals will in future be heard by a single Industrial Court judge sitting alone.
 
Appeals regarding the summary dismissal of police officers will continue to be heard by the NSWIRC and are currently not heard by the Industrial Court.
 
Full Bench of the Commission
 
Matters relating to the deregistration of industrial organisations will in future be heard by a full bench of the Commission, rather than a full bench of the Industrial Court, as ‘the most appropriate forum for hearing deregistration matters’ according to the Attorney General.
 
Full benches of the NSW Commission will now be required to comprise one judicial member and two other members who are Australian lawyers ‘when hearing appeals in relation to police dismissals and proceedings for the deregistration of industrial organisations’.
 
Appeals
 
Appeals against decisions made by a single judge of the Industrial Court will be transferred to the Court of Appeal or the Court of Criminal Appeal, given that it ‘is appropriate’ that a review of the decision of a single judge should be by a panel of three superior court judges.
 
From the beginning of 2014, Justice Walton will manage the workload of the Industrial Court, with Justice Boland on a short-term contract for 12 months as an acting judge to assist with cases. The Bill also provides for Supreme Court judges to hear matters in the Industrial Court, and vice versa; however, the Courts will remain independent of each other.
 
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