- Iwasaki Sangyo Company (Australia) Pty Ltd proposed to establish a tourist resort in Farnborough, Queensland.
- The proposal required foreign exchange approval by the Commonwealth under the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations. Before this could occur, an environmental impact assessment had to be conducted under the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974 (Cth) (the Act).
- Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) applied for an injunction, claiming that the Commonwealth proposed to give approval without complying with the Act.
- ACF claimed to have standing in the matter as a peak environmental conservation association.
- Did the ACF have standing to apply for an injunction to stop the development of the tourist resort from proceeding?
- Gibbs CJ held that a person who wishes to challenge a decision must have a special interest in the matter.
- This special interest must be more than a mere intellectual or emotional concern, though it does not need to actually be a legal or pecuniary right.
- A person must be seeking an advantage other than the satisfaction of writing a wrong or upholding a principle.
- ACF did not have a special interest in the matter – it was seeking to right a public wrong.
“I would not deny that a person might have a special interest in the preservation of a particular environment. However, an interest, for present purposes, does not mean a mere intellectual or emotional concern. A person is not interested within the meaning of the rule, unless he is likely to gain some advantage, other than the satisfaction of righting a wrong, upholding a principle or winning a contest, if his action succeeds or to suffer some disadvantage, other than a sense of grievance or a debt for costs, if his action fails. A belief, however strongly felt, that the law generally, or a particular law, should be observed, or that conduct of a particular kind should be prevented, does not suffice to give its possessor locus standi. If that were not so, the rule requiring special interest would be meaningless. Any plaintiff who felt strongly enough to bring an action could maintain it.”
(Gibbs CJ at 531)
The full text is available here: https://jade.io/summary/mnc/1980/HCA/53
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