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The Boilermakers' Case

Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration
  • Early Years
  • New Court
  • Judges and conciliators
  • Boilermakers
  • The Boilermakers' Society imposed a work ban on the ship 'Poul Carl'

    This landmark case resulted in the most significant structural change in the century-long history of Australia's federal industrial tribunal.

    In imposing a 500 pound fine on the Boilermakers' Society for contempt of court, Justice Richard Kirby set in train a series of events that would ultimately lead all the way to the Privy Council in England and the replacement of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration with two separate institutions.

    The High Court of Australia held that it was unconstitutional for the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to be vested with both arbitral and judicial powers because of the acceptance in the Constitution of the separation of legislative and judicial powers.This judgment was subsequently upheld by the Privy Council.

    Following the Boilermakers' Case, the Australian Parliament in 1956 amended the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904 to establish the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission (to deal with the prevention and settlement of disputes) and the Commonwealth Industrial Court (to act as an enforcement body).

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