Upholding People's Right

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Background of the petition

Polititions support the petition for workers rights

Hilda, an accountant, was forced to falsify accounting records and reports (cook the books). Having complained about her boss’s unlawful instructions and activities internally and externally, she was immediately dismissed on 16 December 2003.

At Federal Court, a judge characterised Hilda’s complaint as ‘only in the capacity as employee’and the employer’s counsel conceded that: ‘the illegality is in fact on the part of the employer’. However, the Judge struck out her claim of unlawful termination of employment, which was certified by the Industrial Relations Commission. A Full Court dismissed her appeals, holding her claim ‘had been instituted vexatiously or without reasonable cause’ because she did not file a complaint against her boss’s unlawful instructions and activities ‘to a Court or Tribunal’ before she was terminated.

The Covering Clause 5 of the Constitution provides: ‘This Act, and all laws made by the Parliament of the Commonwealth under the Constitution, shall be binding on the courts, judges, and people of every State;……’; however, Hilda has been punished whilst she tried to uphold and obey the laws at work and to seek protections from the courts. The Full Federal Court did not deal with Hilda’s appeal grounds in respect of workers’ constitutional rights to obey the laws at work.

On 21 April 2006, under the Judiciary Act 1903, notices of a constitutional matter, which was certified by the High Court, were serviced to the Attorneys-General of the Commonwealth, the States and the Territories. Apparently the High Court ought to obtain opinions from the Attorneys-General, the elected officers and members of parliaments, about whether people’s constitutional right at work, which was arisen from this case, was of ‘public importance’, which is an essential ‘Criteria for granting special leave to appeal’ under the Judiciary Act 1903. However, none of the Attorneys-General directly responded to the notices specifically addressed to them under the Judiciary Act 1903.

A solicitor from Australian Government Solicitor responded to the notices by saying: ‘If special leave to appeal is granted, the Attorney-General might decide to intervene in the appeal’. Apparently, the High Court did not need the solicitor’s opinion.

On 10 May 2006, the High Court did not doubt that Hilda’s appeals were about people’s fundamental constitutional right at work and did not doubt that she could win her appeals if special leaves to appeal were granted, however, holding to the effect that they were not ‘sufficient to justify a grant of special leave to appeal’ because ‘No Attorney-General has indicated a desire to intervene’, even though the High Court was informed on 5 May that 600 people had supported and signed the petitions against the case laws made by the Federal Courts in the judgments of Hilda’s matter.

Implicitly, people’s fundamental constitutional rights are important for the people. Thousands people have signed the petition including Ms Sharan Burrow (the president of Australian Council of Trade Unions), Father Bruce Duncan (Redemptorist Priest), Mr Peter Marshall, (the president of Victorian Trade Hall Council) and Members of Parliaments.