High Court of Australia

Old UGC, Inc v Industrial Relations Commission of New South Wales in Court Session [2006] HCA 24

225 CLR 274; 80 ALJR 1018; 227 ALR 190

18 May 2006

Case Number: S209/2005


Gleeson CJ, Gummow, Kirby, Hayne, Callinan, Heydon, Crennan JJ


Industrial law (NSW) – Industrial Relations Commission – Jurisdiction – Power given to the Commission by s 106(1) of the Industrial Relations Act 1996 (NSW) to declare wholly or partly void, or to vary, any contract whereby a person performs work in any industry if the contract is an unfair contract – Upon termination of an employment agreement, compensation and release agreement made for the purpose of resolving any legal disputes with respect to the employment agreement – Compensation and release agreement governed by the laws of the State of Colorado – Application to Commission alleging the compensation and release agreement was unfair, harsh and unconscionable – Whether compensation and release agreement was a "contract whereby a person performs work in any industry" – Relevance of the availability of other remedies.

Prerogative writs – Prohibition – Excess of jurisdiction – Industrial Relations Commission (NSW) – Whether writ lies in the circumstances – Commission in Court Session a superior court of record of limited jurisdiction equivalent in status to the Supreme Court – Whether application for prohibition premature – Likelihood or danger of order being made in excess of jurisdiction – Relevance of privative provision purporting to exclude issue of writ – Relevance of specialist subject-matter of disputes before the Commission.

Contract – Construction – Provision requiring parties to act in good faith.

High Court – Appeal – Appeal from New South Wales Court of Appeal – Respondent raised privative provision before the Court of Appeal but not before High Court – Whether High Court can consider privative provision in the circumstances.

Natural justice – Procedural fairness – Entitlement to trial on the merits.

Private international law – Jurisdiction – Industrial Relations Commission (NSW) – Contract in question governed by the laws of the State of Colorado – Whether the power afforded to the Commission under s 106(1) of the Industrial Relations Act 1996 (NSW) extends to contracts for which the proper law is other than the law of New South Wales.

Statutes – Construction – Interpretation – Remedial statute – Purposive approach to construction – Objects of statute.

Statutes – Privative clause – Industrial Relations Commission (NSW) – Whether privative provision applicable.

Statutes – Construction – Interpretation – Composite phrase incorporating technical words – Extrinsic matters – Legislative history – Minister's second reading speech – Relevance of Parliament's purpose of successive re-enactment in increasingly ample terms

Words and phrases – "any contract whereby a person performs work in any industry", "arrangement", "decision or purported decision", "industry".

Industrial Relations Act 1996 (NSW) – ss 105-109A, 152-153, 179.

Supreme Court Act 1970 (NSW) – ss 25, 38, 39, 42.

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