Series Details

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Series ID21068
Previous System Location 
TitlePlaintiff's Case Records - State of Queensland and the Attorney-General for the State of Queensland v The Commonwealth of Australia and Graham Frederick Richardson (Minister for the Environment and the Arts)
Parent Series
This series does not have a parent series.
Start Date 21/9/1987
End Date 10/1/1990
Date Statement N/A
Date Notes N/A

Submissions, affidavits, reports and correspondence used in support of Queensland's High Court actions against World Heritage Listing of the Wet Tropical Rainforest of North-East Queensland

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Items Total Items: 253
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Departmental NumbersL19502; HC/A 80/1987; HC/A B80/1987; FC/A G107/1989
System of Arrangement By topic/document title. Papers are in very rough chronological order according to their use as evidence. Most of these items are copies of original documents, used and annotated by the plaintiffs for research.
How To Use Series Do a basic search for names, specific court documents (e.g. affidavit, submission etc.), report titles, key words (e.g. forestry, photographs, correspondence), departmental numbers (e.g. HC/A 80/1987) or dates.

Cases Stated will provide an overview of the Queensland Government's legal arguments, while affidavits provide more details on the support for those arguments. The affidavits may also be used as summary or overview documents to indicate which reports may be of interest- search the name of the author in item descriptions for more documentation relating to that person.

Creating Agencies

Agency IDTitleFromTo
19Department of Justice (I) 27/9/1987 25/9/1989
148Department of the Attorney-General 25/9/1989 10/1/1990
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Access and Restrictions

Access Category30 Years
Access ProcedurePermission to access restricted material by responsible agency
Agency Now Responsible
Agency ID: 8620
Department of Justice and Attorney-General (II)
Restriction DetailsN/A
Regulation Details
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Publication Notes

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Physical / Technical Use

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Copyright Status

Copyright State of Queensland
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Information Sources

A Chronology of the Protection and Management of the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area (WTQWHA), The Wet Tropics Management Authority, August 2012,
Queensland v The Commonwealth [1988] HCA1 - Order made by Chief Justice Mason 8 January 1988, High Court of Australia Judgements Database,
The State of Queensland and Another v the Commonwealth of Australia and Another (1989) 167 CLR 232 - Decisions made by Chief Justice Mason and Justices Brenan, Deane, Sawson, Toohey, Gaudron and McHugh 30 June 1989,
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This series contains supporting material accumulated by the State of Queensland and its Attorney-General (the Plaintiffs) in preparation for their actions against the Commonwealth and its Minister for the Environment and the Arts (the Defendants) in the High Court of Australia. The plaintiffs sought to prevent the defendants from pursuing the inscription of the area described as the Wet Tropical Rainforest of North-East Queensland on the World Heritage List.

These records consist of submissions, affidavits, reports and correspondence, including annotated drafts. The reports in particular provide a comprehensive ecological and geological record of the area in question at a specific point in time, as well as detailed information about forestry and logging practices of the day. Many of these include photographs and detailed maps. Some of the reports also touch on social factors impacted by the above.

Identified as early as 1978 as an area of conservational importance, the area that became known as the Wet Topics of Queensland was listed on the World Heritage List in 1988, recognition of its status as a place of "outstanding universal value." The listing was opposed by the Queensland Government of the day and many within the local community who saw it as a threat to the timber industry and their livelihoods.

The State of Queensland sought interlocutory injunctions to prevent the Commonwealth from submitting proposals to the World Heritage Committee in December 1987, but were denied in January 1988. At this point in time, the Queensland Government's case rested on two grounds. Firstly, that the application of the World Heritage Properties Conservation Act 1983 to the area (effectively an imposition of Commonwealth control) would be an abuse of the Commonwealth's constitutional powers. Secondly, that the defendants failed to comply with the requirements of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974. The plaintiffs argued that the definitions of "environment" and "environmental" in the Environment Protection Act went beyond the physical surroundings of human beings and extended to the economic and social features of the environment, so that the notion of environmental protection embraced the need to protect human beings from loss of employment and consequential economic and social damage. In denying the interlocutory injunctions and in specific response to this argument, Chief Justice Mason stated that, "It was not possible for me on the evidence as it then stood to balance the damage apprehended by the plaintiffs against the potential damage to the world heritage values of the area which might be caused if the injunctions were granted. However, it seems that the risk of potential damage to world heritage values, assuming that they exist, is significant."

In January 1989, an amended claim was brought before the High Court of Australia, which dropped the second argument (that the defendants failed to comply with the requirements of the Environmental Protection Act), and focused instead on the first (the validity of the Proclamation made by the Governor-General under the World Heritage Properties Conservation Act, and whether this proclamation was constitutional). This challenge was denied by the High Court on 30 June 1989 on the grounds that through the act of nomination of the Wet Tropics, the Commonwealth assumed responsibility under the World Heritage Convention to protect the outstanding universal values of the region. Successive High Court decisions confirmed that the Australian Government has the power to enact legislation that is reasonably capable of being considered appropriate and adapted to fulfil Australia’s international legal obligations.

In December 1989 a newly elected Queensland Government withdrew the challenge in the Commonwealth Court that selective logging did not detract from the region’s World Heritage values, and in 1990 the Queensland and Commonwealth Governments jointly established the World Tropics Queensland World Heritage Area (WTQWHA) and its Management Authority.
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Preferred Citation

Queensland State Archives Series ID 21068, Plaintiff's Case Records - State of Queensland and the Attorney-General for the State of Queensland v The Commonwealth of Australia and Graham Frederick Richardson (Minister for the Environment and the Arts)
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Last updated 9 September 2016
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia (CC BY 3.0) ( )
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