Recent Cases

High Court of Australia

  • Catchwords: Constitutional law (Cth) – Powers of Commonwealth Parliament – Power to make laws with respect to naturalisation and aliens – Meaning of “aliens” – Where plaintiffs foreign citizens, born outside Australia, who did not acquire Australian citizenship – Where plaintiffs biological descendants of indigenous peoples – Where plaintiffs’ visas cancelled under s 501(3A) of Migration Act 1958 (Cth) – Whether statutory citizenship and constitutional alienage co‑terminous – Whether an Aboriginal Australian (defined according to tripartite test in Mabo v Queensland [No 2] (1992) 175 CLR 1) can be “alien” within meaning of s 51(xix) of Constitution – Whether s 51(xix) supports application of ss 14, 189 and 198 of Migration Act to plaintiffs – Whether plaintiffs satisfy tripartite test. Words and phrases – “Aboriginal Australian”, “alienage”, “aliens”, “allegiance”, “body politic”, “citizen”, “connection to country”, “essential meaning”, “foreign citizen”, “indicia of alienage”, “nationality”, “non‑alien”, “non-alienage”, “non-citizen”, “obligation of protection”, “political community”, “polity”, “sovereignty”, “spiritual connection”, “subject”, “territory”, “traditional laws and customs”, “tripartite test”, “unlawful non-citizen”.

  • Catchwords: Evidence – Admissibility – Evidence obtained improperly or in contravention of Australian law – Evidence Act 1995 (NSW), s 138 – Where appellants jointly charged on indictment with acts of serious animal cruelty – Where prosecution proposes to tender video-recordings obtained in contravention of Australian law – Where prosecution proposes to tender search warrant evidence and alleged admissions obtained in consequence of contravention of Australian law – Whether difficulty of lawfully obtaining evidence weighs in favour of admission – Whether weighing of competing public interests under s 138 different for evidence obtained in contravention of law as compared to evidence obtained in consequence of contravention of law – Whether each item of evidence admissible. Words and phrases – “balancing test”, “Bunning v Cross discretion”, “causal link”, “competing public interests”, “deliberate contravention of the law”, “desirability of admitting evidence”, “difficulty of lawfully obtaining evidence”, “ease of compliance”, “evidence that was obtained improperly or in contravention of an Australian law”, “false statement”, “illegality”, “improperly or illegally obtained”, “impropriety”, “in consequence of”, “misconduct”, “probative value”, “public interest”, “undesirability of admitting evidence”, “vigilantism”, “way in which the evidence was obtained”.

  • Catchwords: Customs and excise – Customs tariff – Tariff classification – Where no duty owed if goods classifiable as medicaments under heading 3004 of Sch 3 to Customs Tariff Act 1995 (Cth) – Where Administrative Appeals Tribunal found vitamin preparations and garcinia preparations classifiable under heading 3004 – Where Comptroller-General of Customs contended vitamin preparations and garcinia preparations classifiable under heading 1704 (“sugar confectionery”) or heading 2106 (“food preparations”) so that duty owed – Whether vitamin preparations and garcinia preparations excluded from heading 3004 by Note 1(a) to Ch 30 of Sch 3 to Customs Tariff Act – Whether Administrative Appeals Tribunal erred in classifying vitamin preparations and garcinia preparations under heading 3004. Words and phrases – “duties of customs”, “error of law”, “essential character”, “food preparations”, “food supplements”, “foods”, “French language”, “Harmonized System”, “Harmonized System Convention”, “medicament”, “most akin”, “ordinary meaning”, “products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses”, “tariff classification”, “Vienna Convention”, “vitamin”.

  • Catchwords: Bankruptcy – Bankrupt estate – Where “the property of the bankrupt” vested in trustee in bankruptcy pursuant to s 58 of Bankruptcy Act 1966 (Cth) – Where bankrupt held estate in land under Torrens system on trust – Whether property held by bankrupt on trust capable of vesting in trustee in bankruptcy – Whether bankrupt had a valid beneficial interest – Whether estate vested in trustee in bankruptcy in equity. Real property – Torrens system – Caveats – Where trustee in bankruptcy lodged caveat claiming “Legal Interest pursuant to the Bankruptcy Act 1966” and refused or failed to withdraw caveat after request – Whether caveator liable to pay compensation under s 74P(1) of Real Property Act 1900 (NSW) for lodging and maintaining caveat “without reasonable cause” – Whether existence of caveatable interest or honest belief on reasonable grounds in such interest sufficient for “reasonable cause” – Whether claimant established that caveator had neither caveatable interest in property nor honest belief on reasonable grounds in having such interest – Whether possibility of trust being set aside under s 120 or s 121 of Bankruptcy Act conferred caveatable interest – Whether caveat adequately described equitable estate in fee simple – Whether deficiency in statement of interest demonstrated absence of “reasonable cause”. Trusts – Trustees – Right of indemnity – Where trustee incurred significant expenses in his capacity as trustee ordinarily entitling him to be indemnified out of trust property – Where trustee asserted “mutually beneficial arrangement” with “the trust” – Whether asserted arrangement prejudiced trustee’s right of indemnity wholly or in part – Whether value of benefits to trustee under asserted arrangement equal to or exceeded total of trust expenses incurred. Words and phrases – “beneficial interest”, “caveatable interest”, “caveat

  • Catchwords: Criminal practice – Trial – Directions to jury – Liberato v The Queen (1985) 159 CLR 507 (“Liberato”) – Where appellant convicted by jury of rape – Where appellant did not give sworn evidence at trial – Where appellant made exculpatory statements in recorded police interview – Where record of interview admitted into evidence – Where appellant did not seek Liberato direction at trial – Where trial judge did not give Liberato direction – Whether Liberato direction required where accused does not give sworn evidence – Whether Liberato direction required where record of interview containing exculpatory statements admitted into evidence. Words and phrases – “beyond reasonable doubt”, “choice between witnesses”, “conflicting version of events”, “criminal standard”, “evidence on oath”, “exculpatory answers”, “interview with the police”, “jury directions”, “Liberato direction”, “onus and standard of proof”, “out-of-court statement”, “recorded interview”, “summing-up as a whole”, “sworn evidence”, “who do you believe”, “word-on-word”.

Full Federal Court

  • Catchwords: INDUSTRIAL LAW – adverse action – appeal and cross-appeal from two decisions of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia – whether respondent was dismissed in contravention of s 340(1) of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (the “FW Act”) – whether respondent was “able to make” a complaint or inquiry – whether penalties imposed were manifestly excessive – appeal and cross-appeal both upheld in part CONTRACTS – employment contract – cross appeal against finding that contract of employment was not breached – whether absence from duty triggered an entitlement to summarily terminate – whether employee was absent for a valid reason – whether absence was waived or condoned, or otherwise consented to – whether employee was entitled to damages for breach of contract – no breach of contract – cross-appeal dismissed in part COMPENSATION – whether statutory compensation awarded was sufficient or excessive – whether judge below erred in awarding compensation in an amount equal to a prior offer that was rejected – whether compensation should be assessed as the value of the remaining contract period – cross-appeal dismissed

  • Catchwords: MIGRATION – Student (Temporary) (Class TU) visa – Ministerial Direction 53 – whether the Administrative Appeals Tribunal was obliged to consider all factors in Direction 53 – Tribunal obliged to turn his or her attention to each factor during the decision-making process and genuinely consider whether and how the factor should be brought to bear in reaching the decision – whether Tribunal obliged to make findings in respect of each factor mentioned in Direction 53 – Tribunal not obliged to make findings about each factor – whether Tribunal acted irrationally in considering visa applicant’s personal ties to his home country – whether Tribunal made a finding which was not open – appeal dismissed

  • Catchwords: HUMAN RIGHTS – discrimination – allegations of sexual harassment – vicarious liability – whether employer took all reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment – delay between trial and decision by primary judge – whether judgment is unsafe due to delay of six years – whether primary judge failed to give adequate reasons – appeal allowed

  • Catchwords: BANKRUPTCY AND INSOLVENCY – appeal from judgment holding appellant bankrupt was joint proprietor of residential property – appellant contends his deceased brother in fact proprietor of property – further evidence admitted on appeal requiring reconsideration by different primary judge – appeal allowed on limited question

  • Catchwords: COSTS – whether petitioners’ costs should be paid by the Commonwealth or the petitioners themselves – whether first respondents’ costs should be paid by the Commonwealth or the petitioners – public benefit and public importance of petitions – whether s 360(4) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Cth) engaged COURT OF DISPUTED RETURNS – whether Court should direct Chief Executive and Principal Registrar of Federal Court to act in compliance with s 363 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Cth)

NSW Court of appeal

  • Catchwords: BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION – construction contracts – Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act 1999 (NSW) – whether right to suspend work validly exercised – whether unpaid interest on late payment of “scheduled amount” forms part of the scheduled amount – the definition of “scheduled amount” does not include interest payable under s 11 on the unpaid amount of a progress payment unless that amount is included in a “scheduled amount” CONTRACT – Breach of Contract – whether ‘show cause notice’ was validly issued in circumstances where the power to issue the notice was conferred on the principal’s representative – where principal was involved in the principal’s representative’s decision to issue the notice – notice validly issued as principal’s representative gave adequate and proper consideration to issuing the notice and it would be inconsistent with the principal’s right to see that its representative acts properly if it could not be involved in the decision CONTRACT – Breach of Contract – whether ‘take out notice’ was validly issued where its validity was contingent on the principal’s representative being satisfied that the default that was the subject of the ‘show cause notice’ had not been remedied or the contractor had otherwise failed to show cause – not shown that the principal’s representative failed to give adequate and proper consideration to the issues – not shown that the principal’s representative did not possess the relevant satisfaction EVIDENCE — Privileges — Without prejudice privilege – whether information obtained during the course of ‘without prejudice’ meetings can be used for purposes other than settlement – ‘without prejudice’ privilege is not based upon an implied agreement that if the negotiations do not result in an agreement for settlement of the dispute, the parties will make no use of what has been disclosed by the other party in the negotiations

  • Catchwords: WORKERS COMPENSATION – s 151Z Workers Compensation Act 1987- recovery action – whether occupier liable to indemnify employer for workers compensation payments as tortfeasor who, if sued by the worker for negligence, would have been liable to pay damages to the worker TORTS — negligence — Civil Liability Act 2002 –foreseeability of risk – whether occupier had actual knowledge of a risk when risk was earlier reported to person whose employment was taken over by occupier – knowledge of the employee imputed to the occupier TORTS — negligence — Civil Liability Act 2002 –whether obviousness of the risk ought to have led to conclusion risk was insignificant – risk not obvious – risk not insignificant TORTS — negligence — whether employer breached duty of care owed to worker – employer not negligent TORTS — negligence — contributory negligence – whether contributorily negligent in knocking a locking bar when descending a ladder that falls and injures the worker – no contributory negligence as mere accidental inadvertence

  • Catchwords: CONTRACT – real estate agent buyers agreement – entitlement to commission – agreement between property developer and real estate agent – agent to acquire options over seven contiguous parcels of land – options acquired over some of land – options never exercised by developer – agent rendered invoices for commission as options acquired – some invoices paid – whether agent entitled to commission for obtaining options which were never exercised MISLEADING AND DECEPTIVE CONDUCT – agent made demands for commission – whether demands misleading or deceptive contrary to s 18 Australian Consumer Law – whether demands were expressions of opinion of agent’s legal entitlement

  • Catchwords: APPEALS – time for commencing appeal – orders made dismissing applicants’ claims – costs orders made months later – whether time for appeal only ran from costs orders – whether applicants should have an extension of time – whether applicants had sufficiently explained delay – extension of time for appeal refused JUDICIAL REVIEW – applicants’ land claimed to be affected by Minister’s plan made under Water Management Act 2000 (NSW) – applicants brought judicial review proceedings challenging numerous decisions including making of the Minister’s plan – proceedings dismissed as not brought within 3 months as required by s 47 – application to reopen after judgment reserved refused – all bases of judicial review rejected – whether primary judge erred in finding proceedings statute-barred – whether Minister entitled to make decisions to make a plan at “high level” – whether Minister had duty to classify water sources of the State – whether first applicant should have been issued with a licence expressed in terms of unregulated water – whether error in refusing application to adduce further evidence – extension of time for appeal refused

  • Catchwords: APPEALS – application for leave to appeal against refusal of leave for tutor to conduct proceedings without engaging a solicitor – UCPR r 7.14(2)