The High Court of Australia has given a judgment against the West Australian government and ruled to end the longest legal battle between the state and the Bell Group.
The battle began following the collapse of Alan Bond’s Bell Group in November 1990s. In 2015, the WA government passed a controversial legislation that gave it the full power to carve up a settlement worth $1.75 billion and top the list of creditors of the group. The high court has ruled the legislation as an invalid one. The group appealed to the high court after the state government passed the law. Bell Group’s liquidator Garry Trevor argued that the laws were unconstitutional.
According to the ABC, the group has four main creditors, including the Australian Tax Office and the Insurance Commission of WA. The High Court’s judgment went against the WA government on Monday morning. The court stated that the legislation was “invalid in its entirety” as it featured clauses that were inconsistent with two existing tax acts.
“The rights and obligations which arose and had accrued to the commonwealth as a creditor of the WA Bell Companies in liquidation and to the Commissioner of Taxation … are altered, impaired or detracted from by the Bell Act,” the court said as quoted by WA Today.
WA Treasurer Mike Nahan said in March that he was sure the court would pass the law and it won’t challenge the clauses. The state government has spent over $200 million in fighting the case in court in the past years and the government was hopeful that the legislation would properly end the battle, but the court’s ruling went against it. Premier Colin Barnett issued a warning that if the high court rejected the bill, the government would make sure “$1.5 billion will be litigated, argued in the courts for the next 20 years until it is whittled away.”