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Thematic Issue: Revitalising Legal Authorities

What’s Plainly Wrong in Australian Law? An Empirical Analysis of the Rule in Farah


Antonia Glover

In Australian Securities Commission v Marlborough Gold Mines Ltd (1993) 177 CLR 485, and again in Farah Constructions Pty Ltd v Say-Dee Pty Ltd (2007) 230 CLR 89, the High Court pronounced that Australian courts must follow the decisions of appellate courts across Australia unless convinced that those decisions are ‘plainly wrong’. This article seeks to track the development and application of this rule in both a historical and modern context. It first examines the state of the law prior to Marlborough and then engages in an empirical analysis of the use of the rule since Marlborough in 1993, tracking how often the rule has been used and where divergence between jurisdictions has emerged. The results confirm the existence of a judicial system with an increased focus on, and practice of, internal consistency. This replaces the 20th century paradigm in which loyalty to Britain was prioritised over intra-Australian uniformity.

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(2020) 43(3) UNSWLJ 850: