Adam Searle

Call 2000


Called to the New South Wales Bar in 2000, Adam maintains a specialist practice in  the fields of employment and industrial law. Complementing these core practice areas, Adam has extensive experience in other fields, such as judicial review and public law, involving complex points of statutory construction.

From 2011 to 2023, Adam practised as a barrister, while simultaneously fulfilling his duties as a Member of Parliament and Senior Shadow Minister. Since April 2023, Adam has returned to full-time practice at the Bar.

Adam has contributed significantly to the rule of law and public life, demonstrated by his contributions to a range of debates and other deliberations in Parliament and his conduct in a wide range of litigated matters. He possesses strong technical ability and capacity to apply forensic and legal skills, and has been briefed in proceedings involving novel and important points of law at both trial and appellate level. These include the only fully-contested equal pay case in the NSW industrial relations system (Miscellaneous Workers Kindergarten and Child Care Centres etc (State) Award (2006) 150 IR 290) and the leading case on the construction of union Rules in the Federal Court of Australia (Communications, Electrical, Electronic, Energy, Information, Postal, Plumbing and Allied Services Union of Australia v Grey [2012] 207 FCR 548).

Adam has also been instrumental in law reform, making significant contributions to the ongoing development of the law and practice in his core areas of interest as both a barrister and Member of Parliament. Notably, he chaired and authored the reports of the select Committee Inquiries into each of First Nations Deaths in Custody and The Coronial Jurisdiction in New South Wales, which the New South Wales Bar Association has adopted. He also chaired and authored the report of the committee inquiry into the terms of the Public Interest Disclosures Act 2022.

Publications And Speaking Engagements

Select Matters

  • Kildey v TAFE NSW [2024] FWC 383
    Fair Work Commission before Slevin DP, delivered 13 February 2023. Sole counsel for applicant. Unfair dismissal claim where dishonesty, fraud and corruption alleged and found against applicant by internal workplace investigation. Proceedings heard together with two other applications for relief from unfair dismissal arising from same facts. Issue: whether any valid reason for termination when each foundation for stated reason not made out on the evidence. Applicant successful on all grounds, reinstatement and backpay ordered. 
  • Health Services Union v NSW Health
    s130 dispute notification arising from wages bargaining between union and NSW Health in December 2023. Heard before Commissioner McDonald. Issue: whether commitment by paramedics to not re-register under the National Practitioner legislation constituted industrial action within the meaning of the Industrial Relations Act 1996 and, if so, whether dispute orders should be made against the union. Appeared as sole counsel for the HSU. Matter resolved by agreement, no decision. 
  • Re Paul [2023] NSWSC 1635
    Supreme Court, Equity Division, before Lindsay J. Junior counsel for mother. Application to court in its parens patriae jurisdiction and for judicial review. Issue: whether Children’s Court properly considered safety of child with the Secretary, whether paramount interests of child require restoration to mother. Child restored to mother with support services funded by DCJ.
  • Arnott v SafeWork and FRNSW
    Matter No: 2023/00036553, NSW Industrial Relations Commission, Muir C. Directions hearings 9 February, 3 March 2023. Hearing 18 May, 28 June 2023 (reserved). Sole counsel for applicant. Issue the scope and proper construction of the powers of elected health and safety representatives under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.
  • Coronial Inquiry into the 2019-2020 NSW Bushfires
    Stage 2 hearings. Appeared as sole counsel for affected residents in the hearings to do with the Mount Wilson back burn. Issues included whether the decision to undertake the burn and where it was performed was reasonable in the circumstances and whether the fire authorities kept the community appropriately informed during the burn and its aftermath. 
  • Fire Brigade Employees’ Union of NSW v NSW Fire and Rescue [2023] NSWCATAD 253
    Sole counsel for applicant. Issue: Whether reasonable searches for documents were conducted by the agency – whether summonses should be issued to officers and/or former officers of the respondent – whether refusal to produce the correct and preferable decision. Matter remitted to respondent to conduct further searches. This is the first time the tribunal has permitted a summons for an agency officer to attend and give evidence; also the first time the tribunal has directed a respondent agency to conduct specific kinds of search.
  • NSW Health Secretary in respect of HealthShare v Rebecca Betts, [2023] NSWIRComm 1104
    Full Bench NSW Industrial Relation Commission. Sole counsel for respondent injured worker. Issue: proper construction of injured worker provisions in the workers’ compensation legislation on reinstatement, discretionary principles to be applied. 
  • Butler v Communications, Electrical, Electronic, Energy, Information, Postal, Plumbing and Alllied Services Union of Australia (2012) 223 IR 329.
    One of a series of cases appeared in involving the Federally registered union in conflict with the Victorian branch, and the NSW Branch and union registered under NSW law. Junior counsel for applicant who was Secretary of the NSW Electrical Division of the federal union as well as Secretary of the state-registered ETU. Perram J had ruled that as NSW members of the federal union paid only one set of fees rather than fees to both State and Federal unions they were not members and could not vote in federal union elections. An appeal against that decision had been lodged but not heard. An injunction was sought to prevent the Divisional Union council meeting without NSW representation on the basis that there was a serious issue to be tried on the appeal. Injunction granted pursuant to s142(1)(c) of the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009 (Cth).
  • Reid-Frost v Commissioner of Police (2011) 206 IR 38.
    Junior counsel for Police Commissioner on appeal to Full Bench under Police Act, removal of officer on loss of Commissioners confidence. First case involving consideration of a pattern of behaviour as opposed to specific incident(s).
  • Hogan v NSW Police and Community Youth Clubs Pty Ltd [2010] NSWIRComm 23.
    Sole counsel for Respondent employer, Industrial Court of NSW, before Staff J. First application for reinstatement pursuant to s23, s23A of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 (NSW) (now ss103-105 and 112 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW)) for relief from alleged unlawful termination.
  • WorkCover Authority of NSW v GDS Publishing Pty Ltd [2005] NSWCIMC 151.
    Sole counsel for defendant before the Chief Industrial Magistrate. Issue: whether agreement to pay in instalments an amount owed to WorkCover under a debt provision precluded a prosecution for employer’s failure to maintain an insurance policy in a closed period, or whether a prosecution in the face of such an agreement constituted an abuse of process at common law. Held such prosecution was an abuse of process at law.
  • Electrical, Electronic and Communications Contracting Industry (State) Award, Re [2005] NSWIRComm 225.
    Sole counsel for the union which had made application for a new award jointly with a major, industry-based employer organisation. The application was opposed by two other employer organisations. Issues involved application of the ‘special case’ principle and whether the State Wage Case increases would automatically apply to employees covered by the proposed award in addition to the pay increases specifically provided for in the application or whether the award increases absorbed the SWC amounts. Held that SWC increases could be applied for in accordance with the usual principles for varying awards within their term in addition to pay increases contained in the award, as contended for by the union. 
  • Selim v McGrath 47 ACSR 537 (2004); 22 ACLC 112 (2004).
    Sole counsel for employee creditors, being members of the Australian Workers Union. The court considered whether the creditors’ winding up of the company Pan Pharmaceuticals should be reversed due to voting at the meeting on the deed of company arrangement proposal being invalid due to the incorrect exclusion or inclusion of different proofs of debt. Also considered was the role that a deed of company arrangement might be expected to play in maintaining employment. 
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