High Court of Australia

Unions NSW v New South Wales [2019] HCA 1

29 Jan 2019

Case Number: S204/2018


Kiefel CJ, Bell, Gageler, Keane, Nettle, Gordon, Edelman JJ


Constitutional law (Cth) – Implied freedom of communication on governmental and political matters – Where s 29(10) of Electoral Funding Act 2018 (NSW) ("EF Act") substantially reduced cap on electoral expenditure applicable to third-party campaigners from cap applicable under previous legislation – Where third-party campaigners subject to substantially lower cap than political parties – Where s 35 of EF Act prohibits third-party campaigner from acting in concert with another person to incur electoral expenditure exceeding cap – Where preparatory materials to EF Act recommended reduction in cap for various reasons, including that third parties should not be able to "drown out" political parties, which should have a "privileged position" in election campaigns – Where subsequent parliamentary committee report recommended that, before reducing cap, government consider whether proposed reduced cap would enable third-party campaigners reasonably to present their case – Where no evidence that such consideration was undertaken – Whether s 29(10) enacted for purpose compatible with maintenance of constitutionally prescribed system of representative government – Whether s 29(10) necessary to achieve that purpose – Whether necessary to decide validity of s 35.

Words and phrases – "capped expenditure period", "compatible with maintenance of the constitutionally prescribed system of representative government", "deference to Parliament", "domain of selections", "domain of the legislative discretion", "effect of the law", "electoral expenditure", "expenditure cap", "justified", "legislative purpose", "legitimate purpose", "level playing field", "marginalise", "margin of appreciation", "necessity", "reasonably appropriate and adapted", "third-party campaigner".

Constitution – ss 7, 24.

Electoral Funding Act 2018 (NSW) – ss 3, 29, 33, 35.

Election Funding – Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981 (NSW), ss 4, 4A, 95F.

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