NSW unions will today launch a High Court challenge to the O’Farrell Government’s electoral donation laws, arguing they breach the freedom of political communication and association that is implied in the NSW and Commonwealth constitutions.

As well as Unions NSW, other parties to the High Court action are the United Services Union, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, the Transport Workers Union, the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association and the Teachers Federation.

The laws were passed by the NSW parliament last year and hinder working people in expressing their political views by:

Banning peak councils such as Unions NSW from levying its affiliates to run movement wide election campaigns (such as the highly successful Rights at Work campaign);
Combining the caps on election spending for political parties and affiliated unions;
Banning trade unions from paying affiliation fees to political parties

Unions NSW Secretary, Mark Lennon said the High Court action would serve as a crucial test case on the basic concept of freedom of political expression.

“If they’re allowed to stand, the O’Farrell Government’s electoral donation laws will muzzle debate and silence the voice of working people in NSW,” Mr Lennon said.

“This case transcends the interests of any one political party. At its heart, our High Court action is about the right of working people to ensure their collective voice is heard.

“The O’Farrell Government’s election funding laws are a cynical attempt to undermine the political strength of its opponents, all the while masquerading in the public interest.

Bret Walker SC will represent unions NSW and its affiliates in court.

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