High Court Formally Voids WA Senate Result; No Date Yet On New Poll

The High Court’s Justice Kenneth Hayne, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, today formally declared the Western Australian Senate election void, paving the way for a new election in April or May.

The Court ruled that the loss of 1370 ballot papers during the second count meant that those electors had been denied a vote. It rejected arguments that it should endorse either of the two counts, as well as arguments that it should substitute a “patchwork” of results from both counts.

A writ for the Senate election now needs to be issued by the Governor of Western Australia. By convention, state Governors accept the advice of the Governor-General on when to call Senate elections. This means that the election date, as usual, will be decided by the Abbott government.

The election must be held by May at the latest, in order to allow time for the votes to be counted and a result declared so that new senators can take their place on July 1. [Read more...]


High Court Voids Western Australian Senate Election; New Poll Looms

The High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, has declared void last year’s Senate election in Western Australia, necessitating a new election by May.

Justice Hayne ruled that 1,370 electors were denied a vote as a consequence of the Australian Electoral Commission losing their ballot papers.

The Court ruled that it was precluded by the Commonwealth Electoral Act from considering the results of earlier scrutinies of the lost ballot papers. It found that it was inevitable that the loss probably affected the result of the election since the number of ballot papers lost far exceeded the margin between the candidates at the crucial stages in the count.

“The only relief appropriate is for the election to be declared void,” the Court said.

It is now up to the federal government to decide when the new election will be held. Whilst the writs for Senate elections are issued by state Governors, this is usually done on the advice of the Governor-General.

There must be 33 days between the issue of the writ and polling day which means an election will be held between late-March and mid-May. The government may not desire a Senate election around the time of the May Budget so April seems most likely.

Statement from the High Court.

THE AUSTRALIAN ELECTORAL COMMISSION v JOHNSTON & ORS

WANG v JOHNSTON & ORS

MEAD v JOHNSTON & ORS

[2014] HCA 5

Today the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, answered questions of law arising in three petitions which dispute the election of six senators for the State of Western Australia to serve in the Senate of the Parliament of the Commonwealth. [Read more...]


High Court Throws Out NSW Election Donation Laws; Victory For Unions And Corporations

The High Court has upheld a challenge to New South Wales’s election donation laws.

The challenge was brought by Unions NSW to the changes legislated by the O’Farrell government in 2012.

The effect of the challenge is to invalidate the changes and make it legal for unions and corporations to donate to political parties. Money spent on election advertising by unions affiliated to the ALP will now not be included in the ALP’s expenditure limits. [Read more...]


High Court Invalidates ACT Same-Sex Marriage Law; Decision Unanimous

The High Court has thrown out the Australian Capital Territory’s same-sex marriage law.

In a strikingly definitive decision, the Justices voted 6-0 to invalidate the ACT’s Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Act 2013 (ACT). They said: “The whole of the ACT Act is of no effect.”

The court found that the whole of the ACT Act is inconsistent with the Commonwealth’s Marriage Act 1961 (Cth).

The court found that the Commonwealth has the power under Section 51(xxi) of the Constitution to define marriage. The Marriage Act (1961) was amended by the Howard government to define marriage as solely between a man and a woman. Today’s decision permits that definition to include same-sex couples.

Politically, the High Court’s decision upholds the Commonwealth’s power under Section 51. It denies states and territories the power to legislate for same-sex marriages but clears the way for the Commonwealth to do so. Whilst proponents of “marriage equality” may be disappointed with the decision, in fact it also removes a potential challenge to any future decision of the Commonwealth Parliament to legalise same-sex marriage. The next step lies in the hands of the government, the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Statement from the High Court of Australia.

THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA v THE AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY [2013] HCA 55

Today the High Court decided unanimously that the Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Act 2013, enacted by the Legislative Assembly for the Australian Capital Territory, cannot operate concurrently with the federal Marriage Act 1961. The Court held that the federal Parliament has power under the Australian Constitution to legislate with respect to same sex marriage, and that under the Constitution and federal law as it now stands, whether same sex marriage should be provided for by law is a matter for the federal Parliament. [Read more...]


Patrick Keane Appointed To The High Court

The federal government has appointed the Chief Justice of the Federal Court, Patrick Keane, to the High Court.

Patrick KeaneThe Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, made the announcement today. Keane will be the 50th person appointed to the High Court.

Keane will replace Justice John Dyson Heydon on March 1 next year. He is the Rudd-Gillard government’s fourth appointment to the seven-member court. He is 60 years old and will serve a maximum ten years on the court.

James Allsop will replace Keane as Chief Justice of the Federal Court. Allsop has been a Justice of the NSW Court of Appeal since 2008.

Keane is the Gillard government’s second appointment in the past few months. Stephen Gageler was appointed in October.

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Media release by Attorney-General Nicola Roxon.

New High Court Justice and Federal Court Chief Justice

Nicole Roxon

 

I am very pleased to announce that on the recommendation of the Government, the Governor-General Her Excellency Quentin Bryce AC CVO has today appointed the Honourable Patrick Keane as Australia’s new Justice of the High Court of Australia, and the Honourable James Allsop as the next Chief Justice of the Federal Court.

Chief Justice Keane currently heads the Federal Court of Australia. He will be the 50th person appointed to the High Court since Federation.

Chief Justice Keane’s appointment will follow the retirement of the Honourable Justice John Dyson Heydon AC on 1 March 2013 after 10 years of dedicated service on the Court. [Read more...]


Stephen Gageler Appointed Justice Of The High Court

The Commonwealth Solicitor-General, Stephen Gageler, has been appointed a judge of the High Court of Australia.

Stephen GagelerThe appointment was announced today by the Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon. Gageler will replace Justice William Gummow who will reach the constitutionally-mandated retirement age of 70 on October 9.

Gageler is 54 years old. If he serves until he turns 70, he will remain on the High Court until July 8, 2028.

Gageler was appointed Solicitor-General by the previous Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, in 2008. As Solicitor-General, he is the Second Law Officer to the Attorney-General. The Solicitor-General appears on behalf of the Commonwealth, especially in the High Court.

Gageler grew up in NSW, studied law at the Australian National University and completed his Master of Laws at Harvard University in 1987.

Early in his career, Gageler was an Associate to Sir Anthony Mason, a former Justice and Chief Justice of the court. It is Mason’s seat that Gageler will take. It is the position originally held by Australia’s first prime minister, Sir Edmund Barton. Like Gageler, Mason also held the position of Solicitor-General between 1964-69.

Gageler is the 49th appointment to the High Court since it was established in 1903. He replaces the last of the Hawke-Keating appointments. When Gageler takes his seat in October, the court will consist of four appointments by the Howard government, two by the Rudd government and one by the Gillard government.

Gageler’s appointment maintains the balance of three NSW judges, two from Victoria, one from Queensland and one from Western Australia. There has never been a High Court judge appointed from South Australia or Tasmania.

Media release by the Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon:

New Justice of the High Court of Australia

21 August 2012

I am pleased to announce the Governor-General Her Excellency Quentin Bryce AC CVO has today appointed Mr Stephen Gageler SC as Australia’s new Justice of the High Court of Australia following a recommendation from the Government.

Mr Gageler will be the 49th person appointed to the High Court since Federation.

Mr Gageler’s appointment will follow the retirement of the Honourable Justice William Gummow AC in October 2012 after 17 years of outstanding service to Australia’s highest court.

Mr Gageler has served as the Commonwealth Solicitor General since September 2008. He is a highly distinguished barrister and specialised in constitutional, administrative, revenue and commercial law in Sydney. [Read more...]


A High Court Challenge To The Murray-Darling Water Plan?

The South Australian government says the revised Murray-Darling Basin plan is unacceptable and it is preparing a legal challenge.

“We are left with no choice,” Premier Jay Weatherill said. “We must act.”

Weatherill said the government would campaign against the plan. “I have instructed our lawyers to draft a legal challenge to this plan – so that if this plan is made law, we will be ready to fight it in court.”

Media release from South Australian Labor Premier Jay Weatherill.

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has sought a political compromise instead of being clear about who is responsible for the current state of the River Murray and what needs to be done to fix it.

The result is a revised plan which officially sanctions the over-allocation of water that has been going on for more than 40 years, damaging the Murray and threatening to destroy it.

The revised plan is unacceptable. It does not return enough water to provide for a healthy river.

It does not meet Australia’s international obligations to protect our Ramsar sites at the Coorong and Lower Lakes and at the Chowilla floodplains.

It does not recognise that South Australia’s irrigators capped their take more than 40 years ago, while upstream States continued to take more and more water – and inexplicably it removes the drinking water quality target contained in the earlier drafts.

We are left with no choice. We must act. [Read more...]