Labour Law and Practice in Australia

However with years the number of Australian workers in unions has decreased significantly. Much of this decline has been attributed to the changing pattern s of work in Australia. According to the Bureau of Statistics in Australia there are many people who are taking multiple jobs with many opting to take part time jobs. Another major reason that has been cited to be the cause of the decline in the membership in unions includes the failure of unions to carry out their duties especially in the defense of the rights of workers (Sykes, 2001).

The trade unions have also been accused of failing to conform to the ever-changing workplace environment and only implement what it had planned when the unions were first formed. Technology has also contributed to the decline according to a research. Impacts of globalization are also key factors that is said to have contributed to this significant decline. Having looked at the history and trend of labour laws in Australia and how they have evolved it would be of paramount importance to examine some of the sources of labour laws in Australia in order to establish just how defensible the current labour laws in Australia are.

The major laws that regulate matter related to labor in Australia are the statutes and common law. When we talk of statutes we are referring to the Workplace Relations Act which is the main regulator of all matters related to labour in this country. The Workplace Relations Act has come up with what is known as the Australian Workplace agreement which is an agreement between an employer and an employee. The negotiations between the two parties usually take place on an individual basis meaning that it is not group affair.

Although an employee is allowed to use an agent in the negotiations like a trade union, the agent remains a third party in the negotiations and is never at any time during the negotiations considered a party to the deliberations (Sykes, 2001). In every instance the Australian workplace agreements are always subject to approval. These agreements must be measured against all applicable conditions to ensure that workers do not “throw away” their rights which they would otherwise be entitled to (Thomas, 2003).

In Australia it is becoming a common practice for employers to have schemes which regulate the wages of employees and the general working environment. It has also been noted that courts of both federal and state jurisdictions have played a key role in the development of labour laws in Australia. This is so because all courts in Australia or at least those established under the legislation of Commonwealth do entertain or adjudicate matters that arise from the Workplace Relations Act.

In addition these courts also entertain matters that emanate from employment contracts if the issues in dispute are ones that can be heard within the jurisdiction of these courts. The Work Choices Act which came into effect in the year 2006 gave control about three quarters control of the labour laws to the Australian Government (Rogers, 2002). This brought about many reactions and this led to this legislation being challenge in the Australian High Court with many citing its invalidity as far as the constitution was concerned.

The landmark case was the High Court of Australia in New South Wales &Ors Vs Commonwealth. In this case it was decided by a majority of 5 against a minority of two that all the reforms that we contained in the Work Choices Act were all valid. From the above discussion one may argue that actually the current direction of labour law in Australia is defensible. This is so from the discussion it is clear that the labour laws in Australia have undergone vigorous changes which have seen the Australian labour laws get to the position they are in today.


Laura, B. (1994). Making Labour Laws In Australia, London: Law Book Company. Rogers, J. (2002). Principles of Labour Legislation in Australia, Harper: Harvard University. Susan, S. (2000). Labour Law and Practice in Australia, London: United States of Labour. Sykes, E. (2001). Labour Law in Australia, New York: Butterworth’s. Thomas, B. (2003). Labour Laws in Australia, London: Kluwer Law International.