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Workers' Compensation Regulator v Glass

 
Unreported Citation: [2020] QCA 133
EDITOR'S NOTE

In this matter, Sofronoff P held that the Court of Appeal did not have jurisdiction to hear an appeal from a decision of the Industrial Court pursuant to s 561 of the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003, due to the privative effect of s 561(4). The fact that s 561(2) applied the Industrial Relations Act 2016 to the appeal to the Industrial Court did not mean that s 554 of the Industrial Relations Act 2016 applied to provide a subsequent right of appeal to the Court of Appeal.

Sofronoff P

16 June 2020

The respondent was a teacher who was injured during a school trip to Vanuatu. [2]. Her claim for compensation was rejected by WorkCover Queensland. [3]. This decision was affirmed by the Workers’ Compensation Regulator. [3]. Subsequent appeals to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission and then to the Industrial Court (Martin J) were dismissed. [3]. The respondent filed a notice of appeal to the Court of Appeal from the Industrial Court’s decision. [3]. The applicant (and the respondent in the appeal) applied to strike out the appeal on the ground that there was no right of appeal from the decision of the President of the Industrial Court in this matter, due to the operation of s 561(4) of the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (the “WCRA”). [1], [7].

Section 561 of the WCRA is in the following terms:

“(1)  A party aggrieved by the industrial magistrate’s or the industrial commission’s decision may appeal to the industrial court.

(2)  The Industrial Relations Act 2016 applies to the appeal.

(3)  The appeal is by way of rehearing on the evidence and proceedings before the industrial magistrate or the industrial commission, unless the court orders additional evidence be heard.

(4)  The court’s decision is final.”

Conversely, the respondent argued that, as s 561(2) of the WCRA engaged the provisions of the Industrial Relations Act 2016, s 554(1) of the Industrial Relations Act 2016 conferred a right of appeal to the Court of Appeal from a decision of the Industrial Court, albeit limited to error or law or excess, or want of, jurisdiction. [7]–[8]. This was despite the terms of s 561(4) of the WCRA. [8].

President Sofronoff rejected the respondent’s submissions. Section 554 of the Industrial Relations Act 2016 expanded the scope for appeals from the Industrial Court in matters arising under industrial relations legislation from the position that obtained under the Industrial Relations Act 1999. However, s 554 of the Industrial Relations Act 2016 did not have “the effect of removing the privative effect of s 561(4)” of the WCRA. [11].

Furthermore, s 561(2) of the WCRA only engaged the provisions of Industrial Relations Act 2016 so as to confer jurisdiction upon an existing tribunal, the Industrial Court, to determine disputes arising under the WCRA. It was the WCRA itself that “made provision for whether, how and to what extent there could be any appeal from” a decision made under the WCRA. [12]–[13].

In Sofronoff P’s view, the subject matter of s 561(2) of the WCRA is the “appeal” referred to in it – the sub-section applies the Industrial Relations Act 2016 to the appeal to the Industrial Court. Once the Industrial Court has determined the “appeal”, there is no longer any “appeal” as “the rights of the parties that supported the appeal have been merged in the decision”. [14]. Section 561(4) of the WCRA then operates to make the “decision” of the Industrial Court – the outcome of the “appeal” – final. [14]. Section 554 of the Industrial Relations Act 2016 was not concerned with an appeal from a relevant decision under the WCRA but with “a decision of the [Industrial Court]”. His Honour held, therefore, that s 554 of the Industrial Relations Act 2016 did not provide a right of appeal in this matter by force of s 561(2) of the WCRA, as s 561(2) only engaged the provisions of the Industrial Relations Act 2016 insofar as they affect “appeals”. [15]

In the result, the notice of appeal was struck out with costs. [16].

S Walpole