Sign In

Decisions Against the Commonwealth

Text Size a a a Print Print this page

Not all High Court decisions have expanded the power of the Commonwealth. Examples of cases where the High Court has ruled against the Commonwealth are:

1948 The Bank Nationalisation Case

During the war, using the defence power of Section 51 (vi), the Chifley Labor government legislated to allow the Commonwealth Bank to purchase or nationalise the private banks.  After the war, it sought to continue control over the private banking system.  This prompted the High Court challenge that found that Chifley’s act was invalid.

1951 Communist Party

In 1950, the Menzies Government passed a Bill to outlaw the Communist Party. The Communist Party immediately challenged this in the High Court.  The High Court ruled against the Commonwealth. Menzies then held a referendum seeking to give the Commonwealth powers to make laws in respect of Communists and Communism. The proposal was not carried.

1992 Political Advertising

In 1992, the High Court brought down a decision in Australian Capital Television v Commonwealth that pioneered an implied guarantee of freedom of political speech in the Constitution.  The court overturned a Commonwealth law that banned the broadcasting of paid political advertisements outside of allocated quotas on radio and television during Commonwealth and State elections.  The High Court found against the Commonwealth arguing that Australian citizens must have the freedom to discuss public affairs, political and economic matters, and matters relating to the system of government, including the right to criticise federal institutions.