Union Steamship Co of Australia v King (LAWS1052)

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Citation: Union Steamship Co v King (1988) 82 ALR 43.

This information can be found in the textbook, [1] pp 189-192.


Background Facts

  • King was a seaman employed by the appellant company - he developed boilermaker’s deafness as a result of working and, under the s46 Workers Compensation Act 1926 (NSW), he wanted a compensation claim for an injury occurring on a ship anywhere in the world.
  • Because it operated extraterritorially, the appellant company argued it wasn’t for the ‘peace, welfare and good government of NSW’.
  • The Court of Appeal dismissed this argument and it went on to be appealled to the High Court.

Legal issues


  • Their honours say the phrase establishes plenary power with reference to Privy Council decisions at beginning of the 19th century, including Reg v. Burah [2] and Hodge v. The Queen [3]
    • Their honours use these to confirm these are extremely wide powers.
    • They concede, however, that these laws may be problematic if applied extraterritorially and they refer to Opinions on Imperial Constitutional Law[4] in order to show that there is uncertainty.
      • However their honours reference Croft v. Dunphy [5] as precedent of colonial legislatures operating extraterritorially.
  • Ultimately, the phrase means to convey a general sense of promoting the welfare of the community - their honours cite Broken Hill South Ltd v. Commissioner of Taxation (NSW) [6] where Dixon J supports this.
  • Also, the 19th century Privy Council decisions recognise that the grant of power is as expansive as that of the Imperial Parliament - the Imperial Parliament didn’t have any territorial restraint and hence NSW parliament doesn’t either.
  • Their honours agree with Gibbs J. in Pearce v Florenca [7] that even if there is a very remote and general connection between the subject matter of the legislation and the State, then this will suffice.
    • Hence, the fact that the Ship is registered in NSW is a sufficient connection to enable the Parliament to apply its laws regarding worker’s compensation benefits.
    • The appeal was hence dismissed.


  1. Prue Vines, Law and Justice in Australia: Foundations of the Legal System, (2nd ed, Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 2009).
  2. (1878) 3 AppCas 889
  3. (1883) 9 AppCas 117
  4. O'Connell and Riordan (1971), pp84
  5. (1933) AC 156
  6. (1937) 56 CLR 337
  7. (1976) 135 CLR 507
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