Commonwealth v Bank of New South Wales

Commonwealth V Bank Of New South Wales

Commonwealth v Bank of New South Wales

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Commonwealth v Bank of New South Wales (1949) 79 CLR 497; AC 235 - popularly known as the Bank Nationalisation Case - was a Privy Council decision that affirmed the High Court of Australia's decision in Bank of New South Wales v Commonwealth, promoting the theory of "individual rights" to ensure freedom of interstate trade and commerce. The case dealt primarily with Section 92 of the Australian Constitution


Comfortable in government after two strong election wins, the Labor government of Ben Chifley announced in 1947 its intention to nationalise private banks in Australia. It achieved this process by passing the Banking Act 1947. The policy proved very controversial, and the Bank of New South Wales challenged the constitutional validity of the law. The High Court found specific provisions of the law were invalid and struck them down. The Commonwealth government appealed the decision in the Privy Council.


The Privy Council endorsed the previous High Court decision in adopting the individual rights approach. Provisions of the Commonwealth law prohibited private banks from carrying out interstate business banking. Interstate banking transactions under the law were thus not "absolutely free" and hence in violation of Section 92 of the Constitution. The Lords argued that a simple legislative prohibition of interstate trade and commerce would be constitutionally invalid, but a law seeking to regulate or prescribe rules as to the manner...
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