Unions fire first against workplace amendments
EVEN as two unions took potshots at government legislation, Queensland's top silk was undaunted.
Solicitor-General Walter Sofronoff QC answered each claim made by Together and Australian Workers Union, each representing parts of the public service.
The unions believe the Queensland Government breached state and federal constitutions, acting unlawfully by introducing the changes that allowed such sweeping cuts to the public sector.
By doing so, their legal representatives believe the government blurred the separation of powers - the rules that ensures that courts and lawmakers remain free of the other's interference.
Daryl Rangiah SC for the AWU told the court the state government amendments to both the Industrial Relations Act and Public Service Act weakened the Queensland Industrial Relations Comission's flexibility when making decisions on worker agreements.
The amendments struck out a number of clauses that related to job security, including a need for the government to consult with worker groups.
Mr Rangiah also said changes gave a higher power to executives within the government who could now decide whether or not to accept the QIRC's ruling, likening them to a Roman emperor prepared to give "thumbs up or thumbs down" to a decision.
Michael Amerena for Together fought to clarify and justify that the QIRC was a judicial entity to the three judges, describing the government's changes as an attack on the commission's independence.
He said the attack "robs the court of its imperial character".
The unions believe that State overnment amendments to the Public Service Act and Industrial Relations Act interfere with the ability of QIRC and Industrial Court to function properly, undermining their authority.
Mr Sofronoff dismissed the claims of both unions, telling the court the QIRC could not be unduly influenced by the government because the government already had a hand in setting the rules for certified agreeements.
At one stage, he even commented to a judge that a point made by Mr Amerena was "an oxymoron".
If this was a separation of powers, then every agreement from 2001 would be in jeopardy.
Mr Sofronoff disputed each of the unions' claims before each again reiterated their principal points.
The court reserved judgement but the case would resume on Tuesday.