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Commission dismisses Union application to intervene in interpretation matter

The Commission has dismissed an application to intervene in an interpretation matter between the Western Australian Prison Officers’ Union and the Minister for Corrective Services.


The Western Australian Prison Officers’ Union (‘WAPOU’) and the Minister for Corrective Services (‘Minister’) disputed the correct interpretation of cl 48.2 of the Department of Justice Prison Officers’ Industrial Agreement 2020 (‘Prison Officers’ Agreement’). WAPOU filed an application for an interpretation of cl 48.2 under s 46 of the Industrial Relations Act 1979 (WA) (‘IR Act’).

WAPOU informed the Commission that the Minister had become aware of cl 48.2 of the Prison Officers’ Agreement similarity to cl 19(5) of the Public Service Award 1992 (Public Service Award).

The Commission invited the Civil Service Association (‘CSA’) and the Minister for Industrial Relations to apply to intervene. The Minister for Industrial Relations did not wish to intervene, and the CSA sought to intervene.


The CSA contended it had sufficient interest to intervene as:

  • CSA industrial instruments cover many employees, and due to the similarity of the clauses in the Prison Officers’ Agreement, Public Service Award and nine other CSA instruments.
  • APPL 15/2022 would be persuasive and impact interpretation of similar clauses.
  • APPL 15 of 2022 arose from a disciplinary matter dealt with by Part 5 of the Public Sector Management Act 1994 (WA) (‘PSM Act’), which applies to CSA members.
  • Interpretation of industrial awards and instruments are not as different as the Minister alleged, and the CSA should be allowed to make submissions on the agreement and award.
  • Not granting leave would not prevent repetitive litigation on and future interventions.

The WAPOU contended the CSA should be granted leave to avoid multiple proceedings and due to a serious question of fact and law about the decision affecting CSA industrial instrument interpretation.

The Minister objected to leave being granted, contending the proper approach to construction of industrial agreements and awards are different, and that the proper construction of the Prison Officer’s Agreement could not impact that of the Public Service Award, or the other instruments referred to. The Minister contended the CSA did not have sufficient interest to warrant leave to intervene.


The Commission found it may permit intervention if it considers a person has a sufficient interest in the matter, under s 27(1)(k) of the IR Act. The Commission considered intervention principles and authorities, particularly Re Ludeke; Ex parte Customs Officers' Association of Australia, Fourth Division [1985] HCA 31; (1985) 155 CLR 513; (1985) 13 IR 86 (‘Ludeke’) and Australian Workers' Union, West Australian Branch, Industrial Union of Workers & others v (Not Applicable) [2016] WAIRC 00966 (‘AWU v NA’).

The Commission noted, applying Ludeke and AWU v NA, that if the CSA’s or its members rights would be directly affected by the order sought in APPL 15/2022 then the CSA would have sufficient interest. The Commission noted the Prison Officer’s Agreement did not apply to the CSA or its members meaning declaring its interpretation did not directly affect them. The Commission found that the similarity of clauses did not mean that the CSA had a sufficient interest, and that the proper approach to the construction of awards is not identical to that of agreements. The Commission considered rules surrounding interpretation of industrial instruments and noted that the principles applying to interpretation of industrial instruments are generally those that apply to contracts.

The Commission noted that there may be circumstances where a person has a sufficient interest in a matter, even where their interest is indirect and would not support legal intervention in proceedings. The Commission noted that industrial agreements have unique textual contexts and that it does not follow than an interpretation of a clause would affect interpretation of another agreement or award. The Commission found that the industrial rights of CSA members under other industrial instruments would not suffer, directly or indirectly, if the CSA was not permitted to intervene. The Commission found any indirect effect was not substantial and sufficient to entitle the CSA to be intervene.

The Commission found that intervention would not prevent multiple proceedings as resolving APPL 15/2022 could not settle other disputes about similarly worded clauses elsewhere. The Commission found that the disciplinary matter being dealt with by the PSM Act did not mean the CSA had a more sufficient interest beyond the interest of any other public sector employee.

The Commission was not persuaded the CSA had sufficient interest and dismissed the application.

The decision can be read here.

Industrial Appeal Court dismisses appeal against Full Bench decision, ordering appellant pay further costs

The Industrial Appeal Court has dismissed an appeal against a decision of the Full Bench in relation to jurisdiction and ordered the appellant to pay the respondent’s costs of the appeal fixed at $3,000.


The appellant lodged a claim in the Industrial Magistrates Court, alleging that the respondent failed to comply with the National Employment Standards and the Professional Employees Award 2010 (Cth). The Industrial Magistrates Court dismissed the claim, finding it an attempt to relitigate matters determined, or ought reasonably to have been raised, in two previous claims.

The appellant appealed to the Full Bench, contending omissions in the strike out application and that the Industrial Magistrate’s Court did not abandon or release the respondent from all claims. The Full Bench dismissed the appeal for want of jurisdiction on grounds that the Industrial Magistrate exercised Federal jurisdiction under a Federal award and the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act), and ordered the appellant pay $5,150 in costs.

The appellant appealed the decision of the Full Bench to the Industrial Appeal Court.


The appellant contended that he had been denied the right to be heard by refusing to hear submissions about a flawed affidavit in the respondent’s strike out application. The appellant contended that the Full Bench failed to hear the appellant’s submissions about the strike out application’s jurisdictional exercise arguments.

The appellant further submitted that the decision was erroneous in law due to errors in the construction and interpretation of the law. This concerned whether the Industrial Magistrate was exercising a State law by striking out the claim on grounds of abuse of process and Full Bench power to award costs.

The respondent sought $5,150 in costs for the appeal, the same amount awarded by the Full Bench.


The Industrial Appeal Court considered the legal principles relating to procedural fairness and found that the first ground was not made out. The Industrial Appeal Court noted issues as to whether the relied upon affidavit was defective and whether the appellant’s Industrial Magistrates Court claims were different. The Industrial Appeal Court found the Full Bench could only consider and adjudicate the merits of the appellant’s arguments on these issues if satisfied it had jurisdiction, which it was not.

The Industrial Appeal Court considered that the Full Bench did not err in finding that the Industrial Magistrates Court exercised Federal jurisdiction under s 539 of the FW Act, and that the Full Bench did not have jurisdiction. The Industrial Appeal Court found the resolution of a matter within Federal jurisdiction by application of non-federal procedural law is solely within Federal jurisdiction.

The Industrial Appeal Court noted that the Full Bench correctly construed its power to award costs in an appeal under s 84(5) of the IR Act.

The Industrial Appeal Court found no appeal could lie to the Full Bench, as the Full Bench appeal was against an Industrial Magistrate’s decision for enforcement of a Commonwealth law and instruments made under a Commonwealth law. The Industrial Appeal Court found that the appeal was manifestly groundless, and the applicant was aware of the incorrect jurisdiction. The Industrial Appeal Court dismissed the appeal and ordered the appellant pay the costs of the appeal fixed at $3,000, noting that less preparation would have been required by the respondent’s counsel in the present appeal.

The decision can be read here.

Chief Commissioner orders union election be conducted and concluded by 30 November

The Chief Commissioner has waived a Union rule pertaining to the timetabling of elections for office bearers, ordering that the rule be complied with by a later date. In making orders, the Chief Commissioner dismissed an application from a member of the Union and the Registrar of the Commission to intervene in the matter.


The applicant was a member of the respondent union. The respondent was an organisation registered under Division 4 of Part II of the Industrial Relations Act 1979 (WA) (‘IR Act’).

Rule 20 of the respondent’s rules related to the timetable for elections of office bearers and when due required that they be conducted between 1 July and 31 August. An election was due in 2022, however an election was not conducted within the prescribed period.


The applicant brought an application under s 66(1)(a) of the IR Act for a waiver of rule 20 of the respondent’s Rules. The respondent did not oppose this application.

Applications to Intervene

A member of the respondent who intended to stand as an election candidate and the Registrar of the Commission each applied for leave to intervene in the proceedings under s 27(1)(k) of IR Act.

The member applying to intervene contended an election delay would mean existing officeholders would continue in office and make decisions affecting members, and that there was information the applicant was privy to relevant to their re-election, but that had not been received by members.

The respondent opposed the member’s intervening application. The respondent contended that; the member, though eligible to nominate, was not a candidate as the election had not commenced, and that they had no direct interest in the proceedings beyond any other member according to R v Ludeke; Ex parte Customs Officers Association of Australia (1985) 155 CLR 513.. The respondent submitted that all members would be informed regarding the timetable and nomination forms when the Electoral Commission provided that information. The respondent contended that granting the application would interfere with and slow elections when both parties were trying to expedite it.

The Registrar’s intervention application sought an order to the effect that existing officeholders not make any significant decisions binding the respondent beyond 30 September 2022, except those reasonably necessary to enable day to day running of the respondent. The Registrar contended this was to ensure that those remaining in office for any extended time ordered by the Commission do not take any advantage of this. The Registrar contended the order was consistent with the objects of the IR Act, particularly s 6(f) concerning democratic control of organisations and member participation.

The respondent opposed the Registrar’s application  noting that limited time to brief the respondent’s new secretary and consult with the respondent’s Council created difficulty.


The Chief Commissioner found the applicant had standing to bring the application and noted the application was not opposed by the respondent. The Commission found the Registrar had a sufficient interest for the purposes of 27(1)(k), and had standing, given the functions and powers conferred by s 66 of the IR Act

The Chief Commissioner found that the member seeking to intervene had not established a sufficient interest. The Chief Commissioern found the member did not have a direct interest in the outcome of the proceedings rather than merely being affected by them. The Commission noted it did not place much weight on the consideration that granting the application would delay the election process. 

The Chief Commissioner did not issue the order sought by the Registrar, considering its terms and possible impact on the members of the union, their legitimate interest in being heard, and whether the matters could be heard later, to enable fulsome argument and consideration, without unduly delaying the matter. The Chief Commissioner noted that the proposed order sought was a novel one, and there was no reason it could not be subject to a separate application. Given this was the basis for the Registrar’s application to intervene, the application was refused. 

Chief Commissioner noted that s 66 must be applied consistently with the objects of the Act, in particular encouraging democratic control of registered organisations and full member participation. The Chief Commissioner noted a crucial means by which this object is achieved is free, fair, and timely elections for officeholders. 

 Noting that s 66(2) of the IR Act confers a broad power on the Chief Commissioner to make such orders in relation to organisational rules the Chief Commissioner ordered the requirement to hold the election between 1 July and 31 August be waived, but that the election conducted and concluded by 30 November 2022. The Chief Commissioner ordered that until the Returning Officer declared the election result, the current office holders would be deemed to continue holding office and have authority to exercise their powers, duties, and functions. 

The decision can be read here.

Commission dismisses unfair dismissal application of after applicant failed to prosecute their claim

The Commission has dismissed a claim under s 27(1)(a) of the Industrial Relations Act 1979 (WA) (IR Act) finding that the applicant did not take any steps or intend to prosecute their claim.


The applicant filed an application pursuant to s 29(1)(c) of the IR Act. The Commission understood that at a conciliation conference in May 2022, the matter was resolved and a Form 1A – Notice of Discontinuance was sent to the applicant.

The applicant did not file the Notice of Discontinuance, and did not respond to two further emails. The applicant was contacted by telephone on 21 June 2022, and she indicated that she was unwell, had not completed the form, and requested another one, which was sent.

On 29 June 2022, the Commission contacted the parties, noting that the form had not been filed and attaching a Notice of Hearing listing the matter for a directions.. The applicant failed to appear at the directions hearing or answer calls that day. It was ordered that a further hearing be listed for the applicant to show cause why the application should not be dismissed.

The applicant was sent a copy of the orders with a Notice of Hearing, and on 14 July the directions hearing transcript. She apologised for the delay and asked for a copy of the form to close the matter, which was sent on the same day.

On 22 July, the applicant was again contacted, noting the form had not been filed, requesting an update, and confirming the show cause hearing was listed for 26 July 2022.


The applicant did not communicate further, file the form, or appear at the hearing on 26 July 2022.


The Commission found that the applicant had no intention of continuing, progressing or prosecuting their claim. The Commission noted the applicant’s general lack of any engagement with the Commission and their statement in their last email concerning having the matter closed.

The Commission noted that it can dismiss any matter before it at any stage of the proceedings if satisfied by the requirements in s 27(1)(a) of the IR Act.

The Commission reiterated that it is not in the public interest that matters not be expeditiously dealt with. The Commission noted that it is the interests of parties and the public that matters before the Commission be resolved as efficiently as the justice of the case requires.

The Commission noted that if the applicant intended to progress their application, they had not done so with the necessary assiduity, promptness, or diligence. The Commission noted that as a result both the respondent and the Commission had incurred unnecessary expense in attempting resolve the matter, that the situation was prejudicial to the respondent, and against the public interest.

The Commission found that the applicant had not taken any, or the appropriate, steps to prosecute their claim and that they did not intend to prosecute their claim. The Commission ordered that the application be dismissed.

The decision can be read here.

Commission dismisses government officer’s denial of contractual benefits claim

The Commission has dismissed the claim of a government officer claiming a denied benefit in the form of a government vehicle. The Commission found that it did not have jurisdiction on the matter, noting that the Public Service Arbitrator has jurisdiction to deal with industrial matters relating to government officers


The applicant had previously been given the benefit of a government vehicle scheme vehicle. The applicant, upon being transferred to the respondent from another government department, had been given a written assurance on 9 August 2017 that continuation of the vehicle benefit would be part of the conditions of the mutually agreed process to transfer. The applicant was advised in 2022 that the benefit to the vehicle would be withdrawn from 1 November 2022.

The applicant commenced proceedings in the Commission, claiming the respondent has denied her a benefit of her contract of employment by denying access to a government vehicle scheme vehicle.

The respondent applied for the summary dismissal of the applicant’s claim on the basis that the Commission did not have jurisdiction to determine their claim.


The parties agreed that the applicant is a government officer for the purposes of s 80C of the Industrial Relations Act 1979 (WA) (IR Act).

The applicant did not seek to make any submissions in opposition to the summary dismissal application. The respondent contended that the Public Service Arbitrator has exclusive jurisdiction over industrial matters relating government officers under s 80E of the IR Act (to the exclusion of the general jurisdiction of the Commission).


The Commission noted that the Public Service Arbitrator has exclusive jurisdiction to enquire into and deal with industrial matters relating to government officers, according to s 80E of the IR Act. The Commission noted that this was supported by Crowley v Chief Executive Officer, Department of Commerce [2017] WAIRC 00262; (2017) 97 WAIG 454 and Chief Executive Officer, Department of Agriculture and Food v Trevor James Ward [2008] WAIRC 00079; (2008) 88 WAIG 156.

The Commission noted that the respondent was established as a State Government Department pursuant to s 35(1)(a) of the Public Sector Management Act 1994 (WA). The Commission found that the respondent was a public authority as this includes a State Government department.

The Commission found that the applicant was a government officer under the definition in s 80C  of the IR Act as the applicant was a part of the salaried staff of a public authority. The Commission considered the applicant’s role as within the professional ranks of the public service and of the type of specific employees identified as salaried staff in McGinty v Department of Corrective Services [2012] WAIRC 00054; (2012) 92 WAIG 190. The Commission noted that the history and scope of the industrial agreement governing the applicant’s employment supported this conclusion.

The Commission found that the applicant was a government officer and that the Commission did not have jurisdiction in respect of this claim, meaning that the claim was dismissed.

The decision can be read here.

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