High Court hears union argument

Lenore Hankinson
Industrial Officer

A High Court judge hearing the challenge to NSW legislation blocking unions from election spending in support of members’ issues has stepped down because of a perceived conflict of interest. The judge revealed he had provided advice about the legislation while acting as Solicitor General to the Commonwealth.

Federation is one of six unions challenging the constitutionality of the law in an action coordinated by Unions NSW.

On November 5 and 6, the High Court heard arguments from Federation and other union plaintiffs that the laws inhibit freedom of political expression and will give undue influence to wealthy individuals who will be free to bankroll political parties while working people are blocked from pooling their resources to have their voices heard.

Unions NSW argues the legislation aims to restrict unions from pursuing collective agendas at any point in the election cycle.

Conservative governments in Queensland, Western Australia and Victoria have all intervened in the case to oppose the constitutional challenge.

A decision is likely to be handed down in April 2014.