Federal Court

Making employees feel insecure and in permanent competition for continuing work is one well-worn pathway for ensuring workplaces are compliant, wages stay low and conditions are minimal, writes Pip Hinman.

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has welcomed as a “victory for common sense” a Federal Court decision on June 21 to reject massive fines sought by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) over the Hutchison Ports dispute three years ago.

On August 6, 2015, Hutchison Ports Australia sacked 100 workers at its Port Botany terminal by text message the day before many were due to go on shift. The company then placed guards on the gates and workers were not even allowed to clear out their lockers.

The High Court ruled on February 14 that a CFMEU official can be ordered to pay a penalty personally, overturning a Federal Court decision that allowed the union to pay the fine on their behalf.

In 2013, CFMEU organiser Joe Myles and about 20 other people blockaded the main entrance to the Regional Rail Link project site.

In 2016, the Federal Court fined Myles $18,000 and the union was fined $60,000. The Federal Court ruled that the CFMEU could reimburse Myles, but the ABCC challenged that decision in the High Court, where it was overruled.

After the defeat in the Federal Court of his bid to ban mobile phones in offshore immigration detention centres, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) Peter Dutton is trying another strategy to subvert the court’s August ruling.

Mobile phones are already prohibited in onshore immigration detention centres and on Christmas Island for refugees who tried to come to Australia by boat.

After the defeat in the Federal Court of his bid to ban mobile phones in offshore immigration detention centres, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) Peter Dutton is trying another strategy to subvert the court’s August ruling.

Mobile phones are already prohibited in onshore immigration detention centres and on Christmas Island for refugees who tried to come to Australia by boat.

The Federal Court has dismissed a legal challenge by United Voice and the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) to the Fair Work Commission's (FWC) decision to cut penalty rates for pharmacy, hospitality, retail and fast food workers.

The court found on October 11 that the commission met its legal obligations when it decided in February to cut Sunday and public holiday penalty rates for full- and part-time workers.

Unions representing hospitality, retail and pharmacy workers have challenged the Fair Work Commission's decision to cut Sunday penalty rates in the Federal Court.

A full court of five judges heard the appeal over three days from September 26 against the Fair Work Commission’s decision that cut Sunday penalty rates for workers in the fast food, hospitality, retail and pharmacy sectors from July 1.

The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) was dealt another embarrassing blow on March 21.

The Federal Court dismissed all claims against the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) after finding prosecutors had made a deal with a confessed blackmailer to give evidence for the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) in return for staying out of jail.

The Federal Court ruled on December 16 that delays by the Department of Immigration and Border Security (DIBS) in making decisions on citizenship were “unreasonable”, prompting hope for people with refugee backgrounds in a similar plight. 

One litigant said: “This may set an important precedent for individuals in similar circumstances.”

Acting CEO of Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) Tim O’Connor said the decision was a “landmark ruling” which recognised the “injustice” citizenship delays had caused. 

In a landmark decision on December 16, the Federal Court found the minister for immigration Peter Dutton unreasonably delayed making decisions on applications for citizenship by refugees.

The court also ruled that Dutton erred in rejecting the applications for citizenship of two Afghan refugees several weeks after they commenced legal proceedings. The pair had been permanent residents of Australia for more than four years.

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