ON THIS DAY IN 1956, the High Court of Australia delivered R v Kirby; Ex parte Boilermakers’ Society of Australia (“Boilermakers’ case”)  HCA 10; (1956) 94 CLR 254 (2 March 1956).
The Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration was established under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904 (Cth). The court was vested it with federal executive powers under s51(xxv) of the Australian Constitution regarding “conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State”. The court also exercised federal judicial jurisdiction and power as a court under Chapter III of the Constitution.
The High Court ruled that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration was unconstitutional because it conferred non-judicial functions on a Chapter III court.
The decision confirmed the doctrine of separation of powers in the Constitution by the rule that it is unconstitutional for non-judicial power to be conferred on a Chapter III court.
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