Bank of New South Wales v Commonwealth

Bank of New South Wales v Commonwealth

Infobox Court Case
name=Bank of NSW v Commowealth
court=High Court of Australia

date_decided=11 August 1948
full_name=Bank of New South Wales v The Commonwealth
judges= Latham CJ, McTiernan, Starke, Dixon, Rich and Williams JJ
subsequent_actions=Appeal to Privy Council
opinions=Failure to provide for the provision of interest on compensation makes the acquisition of bank shares and business and acquisition in violation of the protection provided by pl.(xxxi)

"Bank of New South Wales v The Commonwealth" (1948) 76 CLR 1, also known as the "Bank Nationalisation Case", is a very famous case of the High Court of Australia


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 was that Banks would be purchased by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, which in turn would be owned by the Federal Government. The policy proved very controversial, and the Bank of New South Wales challenged the constitutional validity of the law.


The Court hearing lasted for a record 47 days. A number of arguments were put to the Court. The Court rejected most of these arguments. However it eventually decided that the mechanism used to nationalise the banks was not on "just terms" and therefore violated the protections placed into the Constitution in placitum (xxxi).


The case was appealed to the Privy Council. The Chifley Government lost power ostensibly due to the problems regarding this legislation and the Court case.

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