Jun 21, 2012

The legacy of the Williams case: less pork-barrelling?

Ron Williams' High Court victory may not see the end of chaplains in schools - but it could have some surprising legacies, writes Anne Twomey, professor of constitutional law at the University of Sydney.

Ron Williams won a pyrrhic victory with his success in the High Court over Commonwealth funding of chaplains in state schools. Yes, he won the case — but is unlikely to see the back of chaplains in his children’s schools. The greatest legacy of the case may lie in another channel: a dampening of pork-barrelling, with politicians more likely to be forced to funnel pre-election money through properly legislated and overseen programs.


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11 thoughts on “The legacy of the Williams case: less pork-barrelling?

  1. Warren Joffe

    It would be interesting to learn from the author or someone with similar authority
    about possible cases where some private individual or corporation may be unjustly dudded because
    another party can plead that the contract or arrangement was ultra vires, citing
    the Williams case. It might be unlikely for the Commonwealth to fail to pay up
    and then rely on ultra vires, but it seems possible that the assignment of some
    supposed claim against the Commonwealth as security could be defeated by
    reason of the original promise being ultra vires.

  2. michael r james

    It seems the High Court got it wrong on both judgments. On the first, its weasel logic went like thus (according to The Age yesterday):

    [But the court found that school chaplains were not Commonwealth employees, but rather were engaged by an external organisation, Scripture Union Queensland , and the Commonwealth did not enter into contractual or other arrangements with the chaplains.]

    This probably in the same class of refined logic that allowed the US Supreme Court to pass Citizens United which gave corporations the same rights as humans. So the court has just given permission for almost anything to flaunt the spirit of the law and constitution by using some clever or sneaky proxy.

    Over 2700 schools have received funding and the majority have chaplains provided by Scripture Union Queensland .

    One wonders if the second decision was not created as a diversion. It certainly has worked a treat.

  3. Warren Joffe

    @ Michael R James

    I would be glad to form a view on your post but it needs some clarification.

    “the High Court got it wrong on both judgments” – what are the two judgments?

    “Weasel logic” implies something I don’t understand. The snippet from The Age
    reads just like a small part of the standard legal reasoning of a court trying to
    behave with impeccable traditional propriety and getting nowhere near the
    “judicial activism” which, mostly but not only on the right, has aroused such
    anger in recent decades. What’s the problem when you spell it out and, in
    particular, what makes you say “weasel logic” apart from dislike of lawyers
    and their craft? (You are in good populist company, including Jeff Kennett, Pauline Hanson ad not a few on the left).

    “sneaky proxy” – what’s that? – being used to flout [you say “flaunt” but I think
    you must mean “flout”] the spirit of the law and constitution?! The judges of
    the US Supreme Court embody some quite different traditions of constitutional
    interpretation from Scalia’s Originalism at one extreme. Our High Court judges
    I am surprised to find you thinking of as combined in some uniform intention to
    subvert the true meaning and intent of our Constitution. Do you actually know anyo
    of them? Do you even know who they are or what their careers have been?

    What possible similarity in the politics or the legal reasoning does this case have
    with the Citizens United case in the US? In short do you have a clue what you
    are talking about?

  4. izatso?

    well, sigh, here is another for you to decypher, Mr Joffe. Contrarian Cant. Don’t look at me, I did not invent it. See what you can do to contraindicate otherwise ?

  5. Warren Joffe


    I have just seen a couple of your posts on another thread and haven’t found
    there the incentive to try and construe, or “decypher” what could be your
    repeated frolics with the deliberately obscure. So, you will need to elaborate
    this latest contribution if you are seeking response from me.

    “Contrarian Cant” I have looked for Google search but found nothing.

    Cant I find defined as 1.Hypocritical and sanctimonious talk, typically of a moral, religious, or political nature. Plus “insincere high-minded talk”

    Contrarian is well enough defined I think by “Opposing or rejecting popular opinion; going against current practice”.

    The trouble is the conjunction isnt wittily pointed, making a point by the conjunction of
    of contrasting or opposing ideas. The two ideas really have nothing to do with
    each other though I suppose you could say that a typical “contrarian” sees
    himself as battling everyday cant. Possibly to the point of being boring. So, now
    that we have discovered the hitherto unnoted “Contrarian Cant” perhaps we can
    suggest that it refers the circumstance of someone so reliably straining at all times
    to pick on the commonplace, including commonplace ignorance and nonsense-by-
    obscurity, that the effect is boring. But that’s not terribly important if the
    contrarian’s laborious performance of his self-imposed duty actually gets it

  6. izatso?

    yup you fit the bill, this is what I mean, you got it in twelve paras where most only need oneI am absolutely sure that I’m not important. you keep fillin’ the gaps to convince yourself otherhowsomever?

  7. izatso?

    bugger this format also

  8. izatso?

    look what I’m sayin is you are one of watsons effin wordsmithsand if you are as good as you seem to think you are you should be out there countering the formation of bad legislation ? but your not are you. you are just here filling gaps an’ pontificatin no end. do y’self an me a favour, cut the crap.

  9. izatso?

    O, you’re….. tzzzzz

  10. Warren Joffe

    Professor Twomey: any chance of an answer to my quesion posed as the first

    IZATSO? I think you must be one of those of whom it is warned “Don’t feed
    the trolls?”!

    Somehow I got lured into actually responding on Contrarian Cant. One up to you
    it seems as you apparently were aiming your quill at me.

    As a matter of fact I do quite a lot of work, using my “wordsmith” and and analytical skills
    such as they are to counter bad legislation (and promote better legislation).

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