The Industrial Court has set aside a Magistrates ruling in a matter involving Mount Isa Mines in a case resting on a narrow interpretation about who can raise a complaint.
In September 2017, the Executive Director of the Department of Natural Resources and Mines, Mark Stone, filed complaints against Mount Isa Mines and two individuals alleging breaches of the Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Act 1999 following a delegation from the Director-General of the Department of Natural Resources and Mines to the complainant.
While the nature of the complaint was not specified in court, they were issued by "a person delegated the powers of the Chief Executive under section 257(1) of the Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Act 1999".
Each appellant filed an application in the Industrial Magistrates Court seeking an order that the complaint be struck out because Mr Stone did not have the authority to commence proceedings for offences against the Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Act.
At the time Industrial Magistrate Merrin dismissed each application finding that the complaints had been validly instituted though the appellants appealed the decision.
Their grounds were that only a Commissioner or Chief Executive, or someone authorised by the CEO could take proceedings under the Act.
The appellants argued the power to commence proceedings for an offence does not arise under the Act but from the common law which states that any member of the public may make a complaint for an offence of a public nature.
The court found that any delegation has to be made to an "appropriately qualified public service employee". which strongly suggested the purpose of the delegation was for the administration of the Department, that is, it is for internal purposes.
The court found the power to delegate under s257 prescribes the mode in which it shall be exercised and the conditions and restrictions that must be observed.
"Thus, it excludes the operation of the general expression in s 257 which might otherwise have been relied upon for the same power," the Court concluded.
It struck aside the complaints made by the complainant on 22 September 2017 for want of jurisdiction.