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High court Judgments

Every Issue

Cite as: December 2015 89 (12) LIJ, p.54

Constitutional law
Implied freedoms – limitation on donations by property developers

In McCloy v New South Wales [2015] HCA 34 (7 October 2015) the High Court concluded that provisions in the Election Funding Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981 (NSW) that placed a cap on the donations that property developers could make to political parties in NSW were not invalid as inhibiting the implied right to political discourse recognised in Lange v Australian Broadcasting Commission [1997] HCA 25. The Court concluded the provisions did not impermissibly burden the implied freedom: French CJ, Kiefel, Bell and Keane JJ jointly; Gageler J; Nettle J; Gordon J sim. Answers to stated questions given.

Interpretation – background circumstances

In Mount Bruce Mining Pty Limited v Wright Prospecting Pty Limited [2015] HCA 37 (14 October 2015) the High Court considered a dispute in a 1970 written contract between iron miners in WA as to payment of royalties on ore extracted from different areas. The Court generally concluded the Court of Appeal (NSW) had adopted too narrow a construction of the agreement: French CJ, Nettle and Gordon JJ jointly; Kiefel and Keane JJ; Bell and Gageler JJ observed the matter did not raise the question on which intermediate courts were divided, namely whether ambiguity must be shown in a written contract before a court interpreting it can consider background circumstances as considered in Codelfa Construction Pty Ltd v State Rail Authority NSW (1982) 149 CLR 337. Orders accordingly.

Powers – power of state court to make freezing orders in anticipation of registrable foreign judgment

In PT Bayan Resources TBK v BCBC Singapore Pte Ltd [2015] HCA 36 (14 October 2015) the High Court concluded that the Supreme Court WA had inherent power conferred by s39(2) of the Judiciary Act 1903 (Cth) to make a freezing order under Supreme Court Rules (WA) ord 52A in respect of a prospective judgment that could be registered under the Foreign Judgements Act 1991 (Cth). The Court concluded this power was relevantly applied by s79 of the Judiciary Act and there was no inconsistency: French CJ, Kiefel, Bell, Gageler, and Gordon JJ jointly; sim Keane and Nettle JJ jointly. Appeal from Court of Appeal (WA) dismissed.

Criminal law
“Pervert the course of justice”

In The Queen v Beckett [2015] HCA 38 (23 October 2015) the High Court concluded that the offence of acting to pervert the course of justice found in s319 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) could be established by proof of acts designed to pervert a contemplated or future curial “course of justice” and was not limited to existing court proceedings: French CJ; Kiefel, Bell and Keane JJ jointly; sim Nettle J. Appeal against decision of Court of Criminal Appeal (NSW) allowed.

Intellectual property
Patents – genes – “manner of manufacture”

In D’Arcy v Myriad Genetics Inc [2015] HCA 35 (7 October 2015) the High Court concluded that a patent that claimed specified mutations of genes that were indicative of cancer was not a patentable invention as disclosing a “manner of manufacture within the meaning of Section 6 of the Monopolies Act [1624 UK]” for s18(1)(a) of the Patents Act 1990 (Cth): French CJ, Kiefel, Bell, Keane JJ jointly; sim Gageler and Nettle JJ jointly; sim Gordon J. Consideration of how the concept of “manner of manufacture within the meaning of Section 6 of the Monopolies Act” was to be ascertained. Appeal from Full Court Federal Court allowed.

Limitation of actions
Asbestosis – when cause of action accrued

In Alcan Gove Pty Ltd v Zabic [2015] HCA 33 (7 October 2015) Z was employed by the appellant between 1974 and 1977 and exposed to asbestos. To succeed in a claim for damages he had to establish that his cause of action in negligence had accrued before the commencement of the Worker’s Rehabilitation and Compensation Act (NT) in January 1987. The primary judge found the cause of action accrued at the onset of malignant mesothelioma in about 2013 and the cause of action was barred. This conclusion was reversed by the Court of Appeal (NT) which concluded that the onset was inevitable after the fibres were inhaled between 1974 and 1977. The appeal by the employer was dismissed: French CJ, Kiefel, Bell, Keane, Nettle JJ jointly. Appeal dismissed.

Thomas Hurley is a Victorian barrister, ph 9225 7034, email The full version of these judgments can be found at


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