Unions seek legal counsel as Joyce ineligibility casts doubt over decision not to reverse penalty rate cuts.

By Joe McDonough


Posted on October 30, 2017

After the High Court’s decision to boot National MP’s Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash as part of the ‘Citizenship Seven’ saga, challenges are set to come in thick and fast starting with the decision to overturn the penalty rate cut for retail, pharmacy and hospitality workers.

Australian Council of Trade Unions Secretary Sally McManus confirmed to NewsCorp that she was seeking legal advice to determine whether the unions have a case to challenge Mr Joyce’s “illegitimate votes” against the reversal of the penalty rate cuts.

“We are keenly aware that Mr Joyce illegitimately sat in Parliament, debated and voted to cut penalty rates,” Ms McManus said.

“This decision gave the government the one vote it needed to cut the wages of 700,000 retail, pharmacy and hospitality workers.”

This decision gave the government the one vote it needed to cut the wages of 700,000 retail, pharmacy and hospitality workers.

“If Barnaby Joyce hadn’t cast illegitimate votes, those cuts would not be happening… The Australian people deserve to know if there is a way to undo that unjust and illegitimate outcome now.”

According to The Australian, Labor separately engaged legal counsel to ascertain the likelihood of litigation, and two prominent silks have said it is “high”.

“Our view is that any decisions made by Joyce and Nash, purportedly in their capacity as Ministers, on or after 20 October 2016 (the date three months and one day after being sworn in as Ministers), are open to challenge,” Matthew Collins QC and Matthew Albert QC wrote.

“We think that the likelihood that some purported Ministerial decisions made by Joyce and Nash on or after 20 October 2016 will be challenged is high.”

Aside from pushing for a banking royal commission and seeking to reverse the cuts, Labor power broker Tony Burke indicated there are a ­series of decisions that have been made by the former deputy prime minister that “vested interests” may want to challenge.

“When you’re in charge of Australia’s quarantine service, there are importers and exporters who make or lose money depending on decisions you make,” Mr Burke told the ABC yesterday.

“There’ll be a series of decisions there with vested interests, now combing through, and there being a whole lot of legal doubt over those decisions.”

Five decisions likely to be challenged

  1. Penalty cuts — the decision against reversing the penalty rate cut won out by a majority of one.
  2. The relocation of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority from Canberra to Armidale in Mr Joyce’s New England electorate.
  3. Appointments, such as Mr Joyce’s nomination for Perin Davey to join the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, as well as grants to the Building Better Regions Fund.
  4. Decisions made under the Water Act — which gives the Minister power to determine claims of payments to irrigators and water access entitlement holders.
  5. Decisions made under the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax and other administrative mineral and gas exploration decisions.