||Issue No. 259||15 April 2005|
Interview: [email protected]
Unions: State of the Union
Industrial: Fashion Accessories
Legal: Leg Before Picket
Politics: Business Welfare Brats
Health: Cannabis Controversy
Economics: Debt, Deficit, Downturn
History: Politics In The Pubs
Review: Three Bob's Worth
Poetry: Do The Slowly Chokie
The Locker Room
Hostile Takeover - Can Howard Do It?
As former Attorney General Jeff Shaw prepares a legal team to argue the union case, leading academics and practitioners are forming the view that the radical extension of Commonwealth’s corporations power will be unconstitutional.
Shaw, the architect of the NSW industrial relations system, says unions will have a strong case if the federal government attempts to over ride its existing industrial relations powers. "If the federal government does attempt a hostile takeover using corporations power it would take an activist High Court to rule it was an appropriate use of federal powers," Shaw says. "Even if the court did uphold the use of the powers the result would be patchy and unsatisfactory - with arguments raging about whether public servants, employees in small business and local government workers were outside the scope of the laws." Under our constitution, the Commonwealth has power over a defined list of issues, with the states holding the balance. While there is a body of decisions that extend Commonwealth powers, particularly around the corporations and external affairs powers, legal experts believe they will have to draw the line somewhere. Leading industrial law academic, Professor Ron McCallum, presenting the annual Kingsley Laffer lecture this week, cautioned the government that line was fast approaching. "If the current federal Government believes that through utilising the mantra of the corporations power it is able to enact a set of national labour laws and ride roughshod over the States, it may end up learning a few unpalatable lessons," McCallum said. "Not only may such laws be seen as inappropriate by Australia's industrial citizens, but in order to ensure a balance in our federal compact the High Court may be obliged to draw a line in the sand and limit the relentless advance of the corporations power." And leading constitutional academic and former Victorian solicitor-general Greg Craven warned the federal government the takeover would amount to 'an ideological war on the States'. "I think this is an extraordinarily short-sighted as well as an a-constitutional view of melding policy and constitutionalism," he told 7.30 Report.
Takeover Target Meanwhile, John Brogden's desire to abandon the state IR system, would usher in deteriorating hospitals and schools, according to Unions NSW. Secretary John Robertson says working families will be the big losers if Brogden has his way. "This move would take rights at work away from more than a million workers who deliver vital services to the people of the state," Robertson said. "It would reduce safeguards of service delivery that are included in many state awards and agreements." He cited agreed maximum class sizes, nurses workloads, and police appeal rights as examples.
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