Oakey Coal Action Alliance Inc v New Acland Coal Pty Ltd [2021] HCA 2 (03 February 2021) (Kiefel CJ, Bell, Gageler, Keane and Edelman JJ)


Catchwords:


Administrative law – Apprehended bias – Relief – Jurisdiction of inferior courts – Where first respondent applied for additional mining leases and amendment to existing environmental authority (“applications”) – Where appellant and others lodged objections to applications – Where first decision of Land Court of Queensland (“Land Court”) recommended that both applications be rejected – Where Supreme Court of Queensland rejected arguments by first respondent that recommendations made by Land Court affected by apprehended bias, but held recommendations involved errors of law and remitted certain matters to Land Court for reconsideration – Where second decision of Land Court constituted by different Member recommended applications be approved subject to conditions – Where amendment to environmental authority granted by delegate of second respondent – Where Court of Appeal allowed cross-appeal by first respondent and held that recommendations in Land Court’s first decision affected by apprehended bias – Whether open to Court of Appeal, after finding that recommendations in Land Court’s first decision affected by apprehended bias, not to refer matters to which recommendations related back to Land Court for full reconsideration, and instead to make consequential orders limited to declaration that procedural fairness not observed – Whether matters to which recommendations related should not be referred back to Land Court on basis of discretion to refuse relief.

Words and phrases – “administrative decision”, “administrative function”, “apprehended bias”, “binding”, “declaration”, “discretion to refuse relief”, “environmental authority”, “error of law”, “inferior court”, “jurisdictional error”, “lacking in legal force”, “Land Court”, “mining lease”, “nullity”, “procedural fairness”, “qualified order for referral back”, “setting aside”, “spent”, “statutory precondition”, “valid”.