Recent Cases

Vanderstock v Victoria [2023] HCA 30 (18 October 2023) (Kiefel CJ; Gageler, Gordon, Edelman, Steward, Gleeson and Jagot JJ)


Constitutional law (Cth) – Duties of excise – Exclusive power of Commonwealth Parliament – Scope and operation of s 90 of Constitution – Where s 7(1) of Zero and Low Emission Vehicle Distance-based Charge Act 2021 (Vic) (“ZLEV Charge Act”) purported to oblige registered operator of zero or low emissions vehicle (“ZLEV”) to pay charge for use of ZLEV on “specified roads” (“ZLEV charge”) – Where “specified roads” defined to include all roads in Victoria and elsewhere in Australia over which public has right of way – Where ZLEV charge a debt due by registered operator to Victoria – Where question of law stated for opinion of Full Court as to whether s 7(1) of ZLEV Charge Act invalid for imposing duty of excise within meaning of s 90 of Constitution – Whether ZLEV charge properly characterised as tax on goods – Whether definition of duty of excise stated in Capital Duplicators Pty Ltd v Australian Capital Territory [No 2] (1993) 178 CLR 561 and Ha v New South Wales (1997) 189 CLR 465 as tax on production, manufacture, sale or distribution of goods exhaustive or descriptive – Where application for leave to reopen Capital Duplicators [No 2] and Ha refused – Whether inland tax on goods imposed at stage of consumption answers description of duty of excise – Whether Dickenson’s Arcade Pty Ltd v Tasmania (1974) 130 CLR 177 should be reopened and overruled.

Words and phrases – “affect goods as articles of commerce”, “articles of commerce”, “close relation to goods”, “commodities”, “constitutional fact”, “consumer”, “consumption”, “consumption tax”, “criterion of liability”, “dealing in goods”, “direct tax”, “distance-based charge”, “distribution”, “duty of customs”, “duty of excise”, “electric vehicle”, “excise”, “exclusive power”, “imposts on goods”, “incidence of tax”, “indirect tax”, “inland tax on goods”, “manufacture”, “markets in goods”, “natural tendency”, “point of consumption”, “point of receipt by the consumer”, “price of goods”, “production”, “sales tax”, “stage of consumption”, “stream of production and distribution”, “tax on commodities”, “tax on consumption”, “tax on distribution”, “tax on goods”, “tax on manufacture”, “tax on production”, “tax on sale of goods”, “tendency to depress demand for goods”, “trading tax”, “zero or low emissions vehicle”.