- This case originated out of the prosecution of a cartel under anti-trust legislation. The cartel, the “Coal Vend” cartel, operated in Newcastle between 1872 and 1880 and was effective in raising the price of coal from 7 shillings to 14 shillings a ton.
- A new Coal Vend cartel began in around 1906 that had horizontal (coal miners) and vertical (shipping companies) dimensions.
- The coal miners were organised as the Associated Northern Collieries, which comprised the vast majority of all of the proprietors of coal mines in Newcastle and Maitland.
- Huddart, Parker & Co (Huddart) was a major Australian coastal shipping company at a time when shipping was the main means of interstate and trans-Tasman transport. William Appleton was Huddart’s manager.
- Sections 4 and 7 of the Anti-Trust Act were directed towards conduct in relation to “trade or commerce with other countries or among the States”, relying on the Constitution’s trade and commerce power.
- Sections 5 and 8 of the Act were directed to conduct of foreign, trading or financial corporations, relying on the corporations power.
- Huddart was suspected of contravening subsections 5(1) and 8(1) of the Act.
- Appleton was told that the contraventions were of subsections 4(1)(a) and 7(1) of the Act.
- Huddart and Appleton were found to have contravened the Act.
- Huddart and Appleton appealed to the High Court and challenged the convictions on three grounds:
- sections 5 and 8 of the Act were beyond the corporations power of the Commonwealth;
- section 15B was an exercise of judicial power and beyond the power of the Commonwealth to make; and
- Huddart, Parker and Appleton were denied natural justice in not being given an opportunity to be heard.
- The High Court held unanimously that the power of inquiry or investigation was not the exercise of judicial power. Griffiths CJ held at page 357 that “judicial power” means the power to:
“decide controversies between its subjects, or between itself and its subjects, whether the rights relate to life, liberty or property. The exercise of this power does not begin until some tribunal which has power to give a binding and authoritative decision (whether subject to appeal or not) is called upon to take action.”
- The High Court held that the corporations power did not allow the Parliament to make laws controlling the intra-State trading operations of foreign, trading or financial corporations. Each member of the Court held that the corporations power does not permit the Commonwealth Parliament power to create corporations (see section 51(xx)’s adjective: “formed”).
The full text is available here: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1909/36.pdf
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