Kioa v West

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Kioa v West
Australian Coat of Arms.png
Court High Court of Australia
Full case name Kioa and Others v Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and Another
Decided 18 December 1985
Citation(s) (1985) 159 CLR 550, [1985] HCA 81
Case history
Prior action(s) Kioa v West (1984) 6 ALN N21 - Federal Court
Subsequent action(s) none
Case opinions

(5:0) The Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act does not oblige the repository of a statutory power to observe the rules of natural justice in exercising that power. (per Curiam)

(4:1) The rules of natural justice applied to the exercise of the power to deport a prohibited immigrant. (per Mason, Wilson, Brennan & Deane JJ; Gibbs CJ dissenting)

(4:1) The failure to provide an opportunity to respond to prejudicial material in submissions made to the decision maker was a failure to afford procedural fairness. (per Mason, Wilson, Brennan & Deane JJ; Gibbs CJ dissenting)

(3:0) The decision maker was not bound to take into account specific international conventions but was obligated to consider general humanitarian principles. (per Gibbs CJ, Wilson & Brennan JJ; Mason & Deane JJ not considering)
Court membership
Judge(s) sitting Gibbs CJ, Mason, Wilson, Brennan & Deane JJ

Kioa v West [1985] HCA 81; (1985) 159 CLR 550, was a notable case decided in the High Court of Australia regarding the extent and requirements of natural justice and procedural fairness in administrative decision making.

Background[edit]

Mr and Mrs Kioa, who were both from Tonga, entered Australia on temporary entry permits in late 1981. When their permits expired they changed their address without informing authorities. Mr Kioa worked in Victoria until he was arrested as a prohibited immigrant in 1983. In the intervening period the Kioas had a daughter, who by virtue of her birth in Australia, was an Australian citizen. Mr Kioa explained that he overstayed his permit in order to earn money to send home to relatives who were suffering as a result of a cyclone in Tonga.

In October 1983, a delegate of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs made a decision that the Kioas should be deported. In arriving at that decision the delegate took into account a departmental submission which, inter alia, submitted that Mr Kioa had been actively involved with people who were seeking to circumvent Australia’s immigration laws.

The Kioas unsuccessfully appealed the decision to the Federal Court and the Full Federal Court. They then appealed to the High Court.

Kioas' arguments[edit]

The Kioas' principal argument was that the decision maker had failed to afford them procedural fairness in not disclosing and allowing an opportunity to respond to the adverse allegations made in the departmental submission.

They further argued that the delegate had wrongly failed to take into account:

The Full Court[edit]

The Full Court of the Federal Court held that the principles of natural justice did not apply to the decision to deport a person under the Migration Act and there was no evidence that the delegate had failed to take into account the interests of the Kioas' child. It was further held that the provisions of the Covenant and Declaration did not form part of Australian domestic law and were not required to be taken into account.

High Court's Decision[edit]

Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act[edit]

Section 5(1)(a) of the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act provided that administrative decisions may be appealed on the ground that there had been a breach of the requirements of natural justice. The court unanimously held that this provision did not oblige a decision maker who was exercising a statutory power to observe the rules of natural justice. In the court's opinion the applicability of natural justice was to be determined by looking at the nature and circumstances of the decision to be made. Brennan J differed slightly in his opinion, contending that the question of whether natural justice applied was to be found through the process of statutory interpretation.

Applicability of natural justice[edit]

The court held by a majority of 4 to 1 (Gibbs CJ dissenting) that the rules of natural justice applied to a decision under the Migration Act to deport a prohibited immigrant. The court distinguished previous cases which had come to the opposite conclusion on the basis that these cases had been superseded by legislative development.

Adverse material[edit]

The majority also held that the failure to disclose the adverse allegations against Mr Kioa and allow him the opportunity to respond to the allegations amounted to a failure to afford the Kioas procedural fairness.

International agreements[edit]

The question of the applicability of international agreements was only considered by three of the justices (Gibbs CJ, Wilson & Brennan JJ). All three held that there was no legal obligation to consider the specific provisions of either the Covenant or the Declaration but that there was an obligation to take into account general humanitarian principles.

Consequences[edit]

The decision in Kioa marked a watershed in Australian administrative law. It radically increased the number of decisions to which natural justice and procedural fairness applied such that, today, the question is often not whether procedural fairness should be afforded but to what extent it should be afforded.

External links[edit]