The Interstate Reach of Queensland’s New Labour Hire Licensing Bill.

Comic Cockroach

Maybe it’s just because State of Origin season is almost upon us again; but whatever the reason, it’s worth taking note of the interstate reach provisions of Queensland’s New Labour Hire Licensing Bill 2017, because being a cockroach (Queenslanders will know what I’m talking about) won’t help you.

That’s because clause 5 of the Bill provides that the new laws will apply outside Queensland “to the full extent of the extraterritorial legislative power of the Parliament”. Just what that means, exactly, is sometimes difficult to pin down; but those words signal that Queensland Government intends to push these laws as far as the Constitution will allow it – and that’s pretty far.

Keeping in mind that these laws are designed to “protect workers from exploitation by providers of labour hire services” *, it might be worth taking note of what the Queensland Court of Appeal said in another “protection” case – SBD v Chief Executive, Department of Child Safety [2007] QCA 318.

In that case, a child was found by police wandering alone along the Gold Coast Highway looking for his parent; the child told police that he was starving and could not remember when he had last eaten anything.

An application for a child protection order was subseuently filed in the Childrens Court in Queensland and served on the parent in New South Wales, where the parent and child were residing at the time.

A question therefore arose as to whether the Childrens Court in Queensland had jurisdiction, under Queensland legislation, in respect of the parent and child in New South Wales. The Court of Appeal, constituted by Keane and Muir JJA and Lyons J unanimously held that it did.

As you read what Keane JA said, try to keep in mind that this was a case about the reach of State laws for the protection of vulnerable persons (in this instance a child). Also keep in mind that the Queensland Child Protection Act, just like the Labour Hire Licensing Bill, was expressed to apply “to the full extent of the extraterritorial legislative power of the Parliament”.

Here’s what was said (with my underlining):

[29] Insofar as it is necessary to read down the general words of the Act to ensure a sufficient connection to Queensland to preserve its constitutional validity, sufficient connection exists where a child has suffered harm while he has been resident in Queensland or is at risk of suffering harm in Queensland having regard to his usual residence in Queensland. The provisions of the Act show that the purview of the Act and the associated jurisdiction of the Childrens Court are at least this broad.

[30] The notion of protection includes protection from harm as well as the provision of care for the child; “protection, of a child, includes care of the child”. The investigative powers of the respondent arise where the respondent becomes “aware … of alleged harm or alleged risk of harm to a child and reasonably suspects the child is in need of protection.”

[32] These provisions afford, in my respectful opinion, a clear indication that the purposes of the Act, and the related jurisdiction of the Childrens Court, cannot be defeated by the mere assertion that a child, who has habitually resided in the State, has been removed permanently from the State. A child who is within the purview of the Act as a child in need of protection because of harm which has occurred, or may occur, in Queensland, cannot be denied that protection merely by the removal of the child from the State. … it must be understood that the Act cannot responsibly be read down so as to allow exposure of a child to harm to continue in cases where a child is taken out of the State by the very person who is responsible for the harm suffered by the child. Whether a child is within the purview of the Act depends on whether the child has been harmed in Queensland, or is at risk of harm in Queensland.

Now, you perhaps only need replace the word, “child” in those passages with the words, “exploited worker” to get a sense of how the Bill is likely to be interpreted to ensure the maximum protection of vulnerable persons. Read it again with that change and see what you get.

The lesson here is that, whilst the Bill is proposed as Queensland legislation, it will likely affect every labour hire services provider wherever, within Australia, they may be located provided that there is a sufficient nexus with Queensland.

It will be important, therefore, that interstate labour hire services providers take note of the new laws and assess the extent to which they may be bound to comply with them if and when they are passed.

Can you hear the “Queenslander” chant going up already?

 

Andrew C. Wood

 

* clause 3(1)(a).

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