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Anniversary of the landmark Harvester decision

16 May 2017

This year marks the 110th anniversary of the historic Harvester test case, which led to the introduction of Australia’s first minimum wage in the 1920s.

To make the occasion a mock hearing in which key parts of the Harvester case and landmark decision were re-enacted, was held in the Supreme Court, on Monday 15 May.

The Law Week event, staged by the Fair Work Commission (FWC), featured Rachel Doyle SC and Frank Parry QC arguing the case before a Full Bench of the Commission.

In 1907, Justice Higgins of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration used the Sunshine Harvester Factory as a test case following the implementation of the 1906 ‘New Protection’ policy for the Australian manufacturing industry.

At the trial, held in courtroom 3 of the Supreme Court building, Justice Higgins decided that 7 shillings a day (or £2 per week) was fair and reasonable wages for an unskilled labourer, which was considerably higher than the wages Sunshine Harvester was paying their employees at the time.

Justice Higgins’ ruling became the basis for setting Australia’s minimum wage standard for most of the next century. The decision was also credited as the foundation for the national minimum wage included in the Fair Work Act 2009.

The Fair Work Commission’s mock hearing was recorded and is available to view (External link) online.

Find out what events the Supreme Court has planned during Law Week, on Saturday 20 May, Courts Open Day.

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