[2013] FWCFB 2530

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Fair Work Act 2009

s.604—Appeal of decision

Chandra Gupta Narayan
MW Engineers Pty Ltd



Unfair dismissal appeal - s.604 Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) - appeal from a decision to dismiss an application to set aside notice of discontinuance -s.586 is a power to correct or amend an application, not a power to revoke or set aside a notice of discontinuance - application discontinued - no impediment to subsequent application - subject to time limits - ss.725 and 729 considered - permission to appeal granted - appeal upheld and decision quashed.

[1] The appellant, Mr Chandra Gupta Narayan was dismissed from his employment with the respondent on 5 June 2012, by reason of redundancy. Mr Narayan made an application for an unfair dismissal remedy on 21 June 2012. The application was listed for conciliation on 17 July 2012. On 16 July, Mr Narayan contacted the registry and advised that he was withdrawing his application. A formal notice of discontinuance was filed on 31 July 2012. On 10 December 2012 Mr Narayan contacted the Fair Work Commission 1 and indicated he wished to reopen his matter. Senior Deputy President Hamberger dealt with the matter based on written material submitted by the parties and decided not to grant Mr Narayan’s application to revoke his notice of discontinuance. Mr Narayan has appealed his Honour’s decision and that is the matter before us.

[2] The matter before the Senior Deputy President was an application to revoke the notice of discontinuance filed by Mr Narayan on 31 July 2012. His Honour’s decision is encapsulated in the following paragraphs:

[3] Section 588 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (the Act) provides that a person who has applied to the Commission may discontinue the application:

[4] There are no applicable procedural rules and Mr Narayan’s matter had not been settled at the time he lodged his notice of discontinuance.

[5] The decision at first instance raises two important issues, namely: whether s.586 provides the Commission with the power to grant an application to set aside the notice of discontinuance Mr Narayan lodged on 31 July 2012 and whether it was necessary for him to make such an application. In our view the answer to both questions is no.

[6] As to the first issue, s.586 provides a power to correct or amend an application, or to waive an irregularity in the form or manner in which an application is made. It is not a power to revoke or set aside an application. Once filed a notice of discontinuance is self executing and it brings the application to an end. 4

[7] It is not uncommon for the Commission to deal with applications to set aside or revoke a notice of discontinuance. But this is the first occasion on which a Full Bench has considered whether s.586 provides a source of power for the determination of such applications.

[8] The first instance decisions dealing with such applications often rely on decisions made under an earlier, and quite different, legislative framework. The decision in Kontogouris v Tradeflex Services Group Pty Ltd 5 is a case in point. In that matter Senior Deputy President Watson said:

[9] Kontogouris has been applied in the context of the current legislative framework, on the basis that the power in s.586 is said to be similar to the power in s.111(1)(t) of the Workplace Relations Act 1996 (Cth). 7 Such an approach is erroneous. The powers in s.586 and in the former s.111(1)(t) are quite different. There is no equivalent to s.111(1)(t) in the Act.

[10] We also note that the decision of Senior Deputy President Harrison in Aguilar v Qantas Airways Limited8 has been relied on in subsequent cases to support the general proposition that the Commission’s power to set aside a notice of discontinuance is ‘well settled’. 9 But Aguilar does not support such a proposition. It is apparent from her Honour’s reasons that it was assumed that s.586 was a source of power to set aside a notice of discontinuance, but it was unnecessary to conclusively determine that question because the application failed on the merits. This is clear from paragraph [5] of her Honour’s decision:

[11] Whether or not a power to correct, amend or waive an irregularity in an application or document is a source of power permitting the withdrawal of a notice of discontinuance was considered, and rejected, by the Full Commission of the Industrial Commission of South Australia in Tomlinson v Leveda Inc. 11 The Full Commission said:

[12] There are differences between s.166 of the Industrial and Employee Relations Act 1994 (SA) and s.586 of the Act, but despite these differences Tomlinson supports the conclusion we have reached as to the scope of the power in s.586.

[13] We would also reject the suggestion that the reference to ‘equity, good conscience and the merits of the matter’, in s.578(b) of the Act, provides a source of power to permit the withdrawal of a notice of discontinuance. 13 Section 578(b) is not a source of power, rather it is a matter which must be taken into account in the exercise of the Commission’s discretion in performing functions or exercising powers found elsewhere in the Act. As the Full SA Commission observed in Tomlinson:

[14] For the reasons given we have concluded that s.586 does not empower the Commission to determine an application to set aside a notice of discontinuance. For completeness we note that the Commission may have power to deal with such an application if the notice of discontinuance was filed by mistake or under duress. In such circumstances, the general law may operate to render the notice a nullity. But that is not this case.

[15] Subdivision B of Division 3 of Part 6-1 of the Act is relevant to the determination of the second issue. Part 6-1 provides a set of legislative rules relating to applications for remedies under the Act. Division 3 of Part 6-1 prevents multiple applications or complaints in relation to the same conduct. In respect of unfair dismissal applications the ‘general rule’ is set out in s.725:

[16] Section 729 deals with unfair dismissal applications:

[17] The effect of the general rule in s.725 is that if s.729 applies then the person who made the unfair dismissal application may not make any further complaint or application for relief under the Act or ‘another law’ (as defined in s.732). So if a dismissed employee (such as Mr Narayan) has made an unfair dismissal application under s.394(1) (as Mr Narayan has done) and none of the circumstances in s.729(1)(b) apply, then the dismissed employee (Mr Narayan) cannot make another application or complaint in relation to his or her dismissal under either the Act or under ‘another law’. This would preclude the dismissed employee from making:

[18] The dismissed employee would also be precluded from making an application or complaint under another law, that is an application or complaint made under:

[19] The critical question in the context of this case is whether any of the circumstances in s.729(1)(b) apply. It will be recalled that one of those circumstances was that:

[20] In this case Mr Narayan has discontinued his unfair dismissal application. It follows that s.729 does not apply and so the general rule in s.725 does not stop Mr Narayan from making another unfair dismissal application in relation to his dismissal by the respondent.

[21] The legislative intent of Subdivision B of Division 3 of Part 6-1 is clear - to prevent a party from making multiple applications in relation to the one dismissal in circumstances where their initial application has been considered on the merits and dismissed. With respect to what became Subdivision B of Division 3 of Part 6-1 of the Act, paragraphs 2707 - 2710 of the explanatory memorandum to the Fair Work Bill 2008 stated:

[22] The use of the word ‘withdrawn’ in s.729(1)(b) rather than ‘discontinued’ is curious and may be significant in cases where an applicant files a conditional discontinuance. But whatever significance may be attached to the difference in terminology it is clear that the unconditional discontinuance of an application means that it has been withdrawn, within the meaning of s.729(1)(b)(i).

[23] Viewed in context, the express prescription of the circumstances in which multiple unfair dismissal applications may not be made suggests that if a particular case does not fall within the scope of the circumstances specified then a further unfair dismissal application may be made. This is so because a person who has been dismissed has a right to apply to the Commission for an unfair dismissal remedy (s.394). The FW Act provides that before considering the merits of such an application certain matters must be determined (e.g. that the application was made within the requisite time period; the applicant was protected from unfair dismissal etc), but that does not affect the right to make the application.

[24] If an unfair dismissal applicant (such as Mr Narayan) unconditionally discontinues their application before the Commission has determined it on the merits then they (Mr Narayan) can make a fresh application in respect of the same dismissal.

[25] Two observations should be noted in relation to any such subsequent application.

[26] First, if the initial unfair dismissal application had been discontinued after a settlement agreement had been concluded then the Commission may, on application by the employer, dismiss the subsequent unfair dismissal application pursuant to s.399A(1)(c).

[27] Second, the subsequent application must be accompanied by the prescribed application fee ($64.20) (s.395 and reg 3.07) and must be made within 21 days after the dismissal took effect or within such further period as the Commission allows (s.394(2)).

[28] The first observation does not apply to this case (as there was no settlement agreement), but the second does.

[29] In this case, if Mr Narayan was minded to make a further unfair dismissal application in relation to his dismissal by the respondent he will need to apply to extend the time period within which to make the application. Section 394(3) is relevant in this regard. It states:

[30] It follows from the foregoing that there was no power to grant (or refuse) Mr Narayan’s application to set aside the notice of discontinuance lodged on 31 July 2012. Further, Mr Narayan is at liberty to file another unfair dismissal application in relation to the termination of his employment by the respondent. Any such application will be subject to the time periods specified in s.394(3).

[31] Given the novel nature of issues raised we will grant permission to appeal as we consider it is in the public interest to do so.

[32] The Senior Deputy President erred in his assumption that s.586 provided the requisite power to deal with an application to set aside a notice of discontinuance filed pursuant to s.588 of the Act. Accordingly, we will quash the decision subject to appeal. We do not propose to take any further action in relation to the matter that is the subject of the appeal, for the reasons given.



C G Narayan on his own behalf.

No appearance by the respondent.

Hearing details:



April 22.

 1   Previously Fair Work Australia

 2   [2010] FWA 5669.

 3   [2013] FWC 1329.

 4   Tomlinson v Leveda Inc (1996) 65 IR 178 at [180].

 5   PR902620, 23 March 2001 per Watson SDP

 6   Ibid at [10]-[12].

 7   Trazisc v Universal Music Australia Pty Ltd T/A Universal Music Australia [2011] FWA 4496 at [16].

8 [2010] FWA 5669.

 9   Dabadice v Kausercraft [2012] FWA 1995 at [4]-[8]; Tutin v Galaxy No.1 Pty Ltd T/A ESP Taskforce [2013] FWC 691.

 10   [2010] FWA 5669.

 11   (1996) 65 IR 178.

 12   Ibid at [180]-[181].

 13   Hammond v Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited [2011] FWA 1650 at [13].

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