The Federation Press

Labour Law and the Constitution


The 1990s saw Australian Governments go far beyond the traditional industrial relations power to underpin their reforms to the Federal labour regime.

The new constitutional basis is fully reflected in this book. Only a quarter focuses on the industrial relations power; the remainder covers the external affairs, corporations, and trade and commerce powers upon which modern legislation relies, as well the constitutional structure within which State and Federal industrial legislation operates.

Clearly and concisely written, the book explains the changing mix of powers relied upon and ties contemporary issues to the current law as found in the Workplace Relations Act 1996.


Labour Law & The Constitution is a useful little book, providing as it does a ’concise introduction to the more significant constitutional aspects of Australian labour law. It deals with contemporary issues of industrial law and reflects the changing mix of powers relied upon by the Commonwealth to support the federal industrial regime’ (from the Preface, page v). ...
[It] is a useful guide to and summary of labour law and the Australian Constitution - nothing less and nothing more. - Ethos (Law Society of the ACT), February 1999

Table of Contents

The Constitutional Framework

The federal system
Implied immunities
Commonwealth legislative power
The separation of powers doctrine
Constitutional rights and freedoms

The Industrial Relations Power

Conciliation and arbitration
Expanding jurisdiction
Paper disputes
The industrial relationship
Industrial matters

The External Affairs Power

Relations with other countries
Matters external to Australia
International law
Implementing treaty obligations
Implementing treaty recommendations
Section 51(xxix) and the Workplace Relations Act 1996 (Cth)

The Corporations Power

The emergence of a modern approach
What are ’foreign’, ’trading’ and ’financial corporations’?
Which activities can be regulated?
Regulating the formation of corporations
Section 51(xxix) and the Workplace Relations Act 1996 (Cth)

The Trade and Commerce Power

The meaning of ’trade and commerce’
The regulation of production
The regulation of intrastate trade
Section 51(i) and the Workplace Relations Act 1996 (Cth)
A broader interpretation

Inconsistency between Commonwealth and State Laws and Awards

The operation of Section 109
Section 109 and the Workplace Relations Act 1996 (Cth
Tables of Cases/ Table of Statutes/ Index

Of interest...