The High Court of Australia (HCA) is the highest court in the Australian court hierarchy. Its functions are to “interpret and apply the law of Australia; to decide cases of special federal significance including challenges to the constitutional validity of laws and to hear appeals, by special leave, from Federal, State and Territory courts.” (Role of the High Court, High Court of Australia, http://www.hcourt.gov.au/about/role-of-the-high-court (last visited Dec. 1, 2014).) Full copies of the HCA’s judgments since its establishment in the early 1900s are provided in two free online databases:
- LII (High Court of Australia, AustLII,http://www.austlii. edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/ (last updated Dec. 2, 2014); and
- Jade (Jade Browser, Jade,https://jade.barnet.com.au/Jade.html#t=browse (click on “Jade Browser” tab at the top, then select “By court” and “High Court of Australia (HCA)”).
Both databases allow search results to be sorted by citation frequency.
Some Australian law school libraries provide lists of “landmark cases” on their websites—for example, Constitutional Law, Monash University Library: Library Guides: Law,http://guides.lib.monash.edu/law/constitutional-law; Australian Constitutional Law: Some Landmark Cases, University of Melbourne Library,http://unimelb.libguides.com/content. php?pid=179196 &sid=2696267 (both last visited Dec. 2, 2014).
The following are some of the significant constitutional law cases determined by the HCA since 2000, in reverse chronological order:
- Plaintiff S4/2014 v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection  HCA 34, http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/2014/34.html. In this case, the HCA set out constitutional limits on immigration detention.
- Williams v Commonwealth of Australia & Ors  HCA 23, http://www.austlii.edu.au/ au/cases/cth/HCA/2014/23.html; and Williams v Commonwealth of Australia  HCA 23 (http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/2014/23.html. (See Kelly Buchanan, Australia: High Court Strikes Down Government Funding of School Chaplains, Global Legal Monitor (June 23, 2014),http://www.loc.gov/lawweb/servlet/lloc_news?disp3_ l205404041_text.) These cases concerned the constitutional validity of the federal government’s school chaplaincy program.
- The Commonwealth v Australian Capital Territory  HCA 55, http://www.austlii.edu. au/au/cases/cth/HCA/2013/55.htm. (See Kelly Buchanan, Australia: High Court Strikes Down Territory’s Same-Sex Marriage Law, Global Legal Monitor (Dec. 19, 2013), http://www.loc.gov/lawweb/servlet/lloc_news?disp3_l205403799_text.) In this case, the HCA recognized that the federal Parliament’s constitutional power to make laws with respect to marriage extend to legislating for same-sex marriage.
- Attorney-General for South Australia v Corporation of the City of Adelaide & Ors  HCA 3, http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/2013/3.html. This case concerned the scope of the implied freedom of political communication under the Australian Constitution.
- JT International SA v Commonwealth of Australia; British American Tobacco Australasia Ltd & Ors v Commonwealth of Australia  HCA 43, http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/ HCA/2012/43.html. (See Kelly Buchanan, Australia: Plain Packaging Law Upheld by High Court, Global Legal Monitor (Aug. 16, 2012), http://www.loc.gov/lawweb/servlet/lloc_ news?disp3_l205403286_text.) This case concerned the constitutional validity of legislation requiring plain packaging of cigarettes in Australia.
- South Australia v Totani  HCA 39, http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/ 2010/39.html. This case concerned the separation of powers under the Australian Constitution.
- Pape v Commissioner of Taxation  HCA 23, http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/ cth/HCA/2009/23.html. This case concerned the constitutional validity of certain one-time payments to taxpayers by the federal government as part of its economic stimulus package.
- Roach v Electoral Commissioner  HCA 43, http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/ HCA/2007/43.html. This case concerned the constitutional validity of amended federal legislation that imposed a blanket voting ban on all prisoners.
- Thomas v Mowbray  HCA 33, http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/2007/ 33.html. This case concerned the federal constitutional legislative powers with respect to defense and external affairs, as well as matters relating to the separation of powers.
- New South Wales & Ors v Commonwealth of Australia  HCA 52, http://www.austlii. edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/2006/52.html. This case concerned the constitutional validity of the “Work Choices” industrial relations legislation passed by the federal Parliament.
- Al-Kateb v Godwin  HCA 37, http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/2004/37. html. This case concerned the constitutional validity of indefinite detention under Australia’s immigration law.
Last Updated: 06/09/2015