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Key decisions

  • Regional Express Holdings Limited v Australian Federation of Air Pilots [2017] HCA 55
  • ALDI Foods Pty Limited v Shop, Distributive & Allied Employees Association [2017] HCA 53
  • Esso Australia Pty Ltd v The Australian Workers’ Union [2017] HCA 54
  • DWN042 v The Republic of Nauru [2017] HCA 56

Industrial relations law

Statutory interpretation – Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) – entitlement to represent industrial interests

In Regional Express Holdings Limited v Australian Federation of Air Pilots [2017] HCA 55 (13 December 2017) the High Court considered whether an industrial association was entitled to ‘represent the industrial interests of’ a person if the person was eligible for membership of the association but was not actually a member. The respondent was an industrial association registered as an organisation of employees under the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009 (Cth). It alleged that a letter sent by the appellant contravened civil penalty provisions of the Fair Work Act. However, not every person to whom the letter was sent was a member of the association. The appellant argued that the respondent lacked standing to bring the action because it was not ‘entitled to represent the industrial interests’ of the persons who had received the letter, within the meaning of s 540(6)(b)(ii) of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). The High Court held that, properly construed, that section encompassed persons eligible for membership under the association’s eligibility rules even if those persons were not actually members. That followed especially from the statutory purpose, the context of the phrase in the Fair Work Act, and the historical context to the provision. Kiefel CJ, Keane, Nettle, Gordon and Edelman JJ jointly. Appeal from the Full Federal Court dismissed.

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