R v Kirby; Ex parte Boilermakers' Society of Australia

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R v Kirby; Ex parte Boilermakers' Society of Australia
Coat of Arms of Australia.svg
Court High Court of Australia
Decided 2 March 1956
Citation(s) [1956] HCA 10, (1956) 94 CLR 254
Court membership
Judge(s) sitting Dixon CJ, McTiernan, Williams, Webb, Fullagar, Kitto and Taylor JJ
Attorney-General (Cth) v The Queen
Royal Arms of the United Kingdom (Privy Council).svg
Court Privy Council
Decided 19 March 1967
Citation(s) [1957] UKPC 4; [1957] UKPCHCA 1, (1957) 95 CLR 529; [1957] AC 288
Court membership
Judge(s) sitting Viscount Kilmuir LC, Viscount Simonds, Lord Morton of Henryton, Lord Tucker, Lord Cohen, Lord Keith of Avonholm and Lord Somervell of Harrow.

The Boilermakers' Case[1] was a 1956 decision of the High Court of Australia which considered the powers of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to punish the Boilermakers' Society of Australia, a union which had disobeyed the orders of that court in relation to an industrial dispute between boilermakers and their employer body, the Metal Trades Employers' Association. [2]

The High Court held that the judicial power of the Commonwealth could not be vested in a tribunal that also exercised non-judicial functions. It is a major case dealing with the separation of powers in Australian law.

The significance of the case was that it restricted the use of judicial power only to Chapter III courts (under the Australian Constitution), as well as establishing that these courts could exercise no other power. In this way, it clarified the separation of powers doctrine in Australia.

The decision led to the abolition of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and the creation of two new Australian industrial relations bodies: the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission (later known as the Australian Industrial Relations Commission), whose limited-term members could create industrial awards and settle interstate industrial disputes, and the Commonwealth Industrial Court, whose judges could interpret and enforce awards made by the Commission.[3]


  1. ^ R v Kirby; Ex parte Boilermakers' Society of Australia [1956] HCA 10, (1956) 94 CLR 254.
  2. ^ http://www.ruleoflaw.org.au/boilermakers-separation-powers/
  3. ^ Australian Constitutional Law, Materials and Commentary, 4th ed, PJ Hanks, Butterworths, 1990 p241