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Plunder Downunder: Transplanting the Anglo-American Labor Law Model to Australia

21 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2006  

Ronald McCallum

The University of Sydney Law School


This article examines how the federal Constitutions of Australia, the United States, and Canada and judicial interpretation of those Constitutions have shaped national labor law policy in each of those countries. In particular, the extent to which the distribution of federal and State/provincial legislative powers has enabled federal governments to deregulate labor laws is analyzed. In the United States, judicial interpretation of the interstate commerce clause and the pre-emption doctrine played a significant role in giving the federal government control of labor law policy. The federal collective bargaining laws, which have not been significantly amended since 1959, have enabled the emergence of a deregulated labor law model in the United States. The United States' experience is contrasted with the Canadian federal Parliament's limited control over labor relations and the difficulties it would face in deregulating Canadian labor law. In Australia, the Howard federal government has embarked on a bold experiment to use its legislative powers over corporations to create a new deregulated, national labor law regime that would see the role of the Australian states in regulating labor relations diminish. If the High Court upholds this new approach, then the Australian corporations power could play a similar role that the interstate commerce clause played in giving the United States a national collective bargaining regime.

Suggested Citation

McCallum, Ronald, Plunder Downunder: Transplanting the Anglo-American Labor Law Model to Australia. Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 06/48; Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal, Vol. 26, No. 3, pp. 381-400, Spring 2005 . Available at SSRN:

Ronald McCallum (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney Law School ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
+61 2 9351 0252 (Phone)

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