States Challenge IR laws in High Court

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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

High Court proceedings have commenced with every Australian state challenging the legality of the Howard Government's radical new industrial relations workplace reforms.

Acting Employment Protection Minister John Kobelke said the new laws reduced the pay, employment conditions and job security of many Western Australian workers and their families.

The minister said the proceedings challenged the validity of John Howard’s Work Choices legislation that came into effect on March 27, this year.

All the state governments have objected to the legislation on the basis that it is unconstitutional and New South Wales led the combined states’ legal challenge.

Mr Kobelke said it would remain to be seen whether the Howard government has the right to overrule established constitutional practise by its reliance on the corporations power to underpin its Work Choices legislation.

The corporations power of the Constitution enables the Commonwealth to regulate foreign, trading or financial corporations but the Acting Minister disputed the corporations power gave the Commonwealth ‘a blank cheque’ over industrial relations.

John Kobelke said, ‘contrary to assertions from Canberra, the scope of the corporations power has yet to be judicially settled.’

"No other Federal Government has attempted to do what the Howard Government has done with the corporation's power,’ the minister also said.

Mr Kobelke said he believes the High Court challenge will be one of the most significant constitutional cases in modern history and that the Carpenter government opposes the potential ill-effects of the legislation on workers and their families.

"The laws threaten the very essence of federalism and if the Howard Government has its way, the corporations power will be used to sideline the States."

The High Court proceedings concluded yesterday, with a decision not expected until next year.