A dispute between a national union, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and an engineering and saw-milling factory owned by the Western Australian government was referred to the High Court. The Commonwealth sought to legislate for the union because it believed that under Section 51(xxxv) of the Constitution, it had the power to make laws for State-based businesses when the dispute extended beyond State boundaries.
The High Court agreed, giving a much broader interpretation to Commonwealth Industrial Powers in the Constitution by ruling that Commonwealth Industrial Law could apply to Western Australian State agencies, and by implication, to other States. It brushed aside any belief that interpretation of the Commonwealth's powers should be limited by concern for the rights of the States, since the Commonwealth Constitution does not say anything about what those rights are.
The decisions and the principles laid down in The Engineers Case have permitted Commonwealth laws to intrude into areas that would otherwise have been subject to State control. It has become a major precedent case for similar decisions expanding Commonwealth power at the expense of the States.