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Key decisions

  • Williams v Commonwealth of Australia (No 2) [2014] HCA 23
  • MacarthurCook Fund Management Limited v TFML Limited [2014] HCA 17
  • Gillard v The Queen [2014] HCA 16
  • Lee v The Queen; Lee v The Queen [2014] HCA 20
  • Stewart v Atco Controls Pty Ltd (in liquidation) [2014] HCA 15
  • Howard v Commissioner of Taxation [2014] HCA 21
  • Sidhu v Van Dyke [2014] HCA 19
  • Australian Financial Services and Leasing Pty Limited v Hills Industries Limited [2014] HCA14
  • Plaintiff M150 of 2013 v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection [2014] HCA 25
  • FTZK v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection [2014] HCA 26
  • Plaintiff S156-2013 v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection [2014] HCA 22
  • ADCO Constructions Pty Ltd v Goudappel [2014] HCA 18

Constitutional law

Executive power of the Commonwealth – power to fund school chaplains – whether chaplain scheme provides “benefits to students”

In Williams v Commonwealth of Australia (No 2) [2014] HCA 23 (19 June 2014), the High Court considered the consequence of Williams v Commonwealth of Australia (No1) [2012] HCA 23, where the Court held payments made by the Commonwealth to fund chaplains in schools were not supported by the executive power in s61 of the Constitution. Shortly after, the Commonwealth Parliament passed legislation to amend the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (Cth) to validate past payments and authorise future payments for the chaplaincy and other programs. This purported to authorise payments specified in regulations where the Commonwealth did not otherwise have power.

In Williams v Commonwealth of Australia (No2), the High Court observed that the appropriation of money in the budget under ss81 and 83 of the Constitution did not confer the power to spend the money. The court concluded that the new provisions must be read to be within constitutional power (S15A of Acts Interpretation Act 1901 (Cth)) and did not, standing alone, provide a constitutional basis for expenditure: French CJ, Hayne, Kiefel, Bell, Keane JJ jointly; sim Crennan J. The court concluded the payments were not authorised as “benefits to students” (Constitution S51 (xxiiiA)) as the payments were made to a scheme or program which some, all or no students may use, and not to any individual students directed to the consequence of being a student. The court also considered the extent the executive power of the Commonwealth may authorise contracts. Questions in case stated answered accordingly.

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