Viskauskas v Niland (1983) 153 CLR 280

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  • Several Aboriginal Australian patrons were refused service at a bar.
  • They brought proceedings under both state and federal anti-discrimination legislation.
  • It was argued that the state law was inconsistent with the federal law, and thus invalid.
  • Was there an inconsistency between the state and federal laws?
  • The court held that the state law was invalid.
  • They held that the Federal Government had intended for the law to “cover the field” and thus it was inconsistent with the state law.
  • They also held that the Federal law was validly made under the external affairs power of the Commonwealth.
Relevance/other notes
  • This is a helpful case in applying the “cover the field” test.
  • After this case, the federal government amended the Racial Discrimination Act to explicitly state that they did not intend for it to cover the field.

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