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Williams v Cth

Williams v Cth

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Published by Latika M Bourke

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Published by: Latika M Bourke on Jun 20, 2012
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07/24/2012

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HIGH COURT OF AUSTRALIA
Please direct enquiries to Ben Wickham, Senior Executive Deputy RegistrarTelephone: (02) 6270 6893Email: bwickham@hcourt.gov.au Website: www.hcourt.gov.au
RONALD WILLIAMS v THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA & ORS[2012] HCA 23Today the High Court, by majority, held that a funding agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia and Scripture Union Queensland ("SUQ") for the provision of chaplaincy services at aState school in Queensland ("the Funding Agreement") is invalid. A majority of the Court also heldthat payments made by the Commonwealth to SUQ under the Funding Agreement were notsupported by s 61 of the Constitution.SUQ, a public company, entered into the Funding Agreement with the Commonwealth to providecertain chaplaincy services at the Darling Heights State School in Queensland ("the School") inaccordance with certain guidelines ("the NSCP Guidelines"). Those services included assisting theSchool and community "in supporting the spiritual wellbeing of students" and "being approachableby all students, staff and members of the school community of all religious affiliations". TheFunding Agreement was entered into pursuant to the Commonwealth's National School ChaplaincyProgram ("the NSCP"). The funding of the NSCP is not provided under legislation, but under aseries of funding arrangements administered by the Commonwealth of which the FundingAgreement is one example.Ronald Williams, the plaintiff, is the father of four children who attended the School. In 2010, MrWilliams commenced proceedings in the original jurisdiction of the High Court challenging theCommonwealth's authority to enter into the Funding Agreement with SUQ, to draw money fromthe Consolidated Revenue Fund ("the CRF") for each of the financial years from 2007-2008 to2011-2012 inclusive, and to pay the appropriated moneys to SUQ pursuant to the FundingAgreement.In addition to the Commonwealth, the Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth,and the Minister for Finance and Deregulation were defendants to the proceeding (collectively, "theCommonwealth parties"). Under the Rules of the Court, the parties agreed to submit a special caseto the High Court for determination. Relevantly, the special case asked:1. Does Mr Williams have standing to challenge the Funding Agreement, the drawing of moneyfrom the CRF, and the Commonwealth's payments to SUQ?2. Is the Funding Agreement invalid because it is:(a) beyond the executive power of the Commonwealth under s 61 of the Constitution, or(b) prohibited by s 116 of the Constitution?3. Was the drawing of money from the CRF to make payments under the Funding Agreementauthorised by the relevant Appropriation Acts?4. Were the payments made by the Commonwealth to SUQ pursuant to the Funding Agreement:(a) beyond the executive power of the Commonwealth under s 61 of the Constitution, or(b) prohibited by s 116 of the Constitution?20 June 2012

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