Resolving disputes between residents of different Australian states

Posted on 13 Jun 2018

VCAT has received enquiries about resolving disputes between residents of different Australian states, following a recent High Court of Australia decision.

In Burns v Corbett, the High Court found that the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) did not have authority to decide such matters.

The decision raises highly technical constitutional law issues. VCAT notes that it:

  • is specific to NCAT proceedings, and it was conceded before the High Court that NCAT is not a court. Whether VCAT’s jurisdictionDefinitionThe authority of a court or tribunal to hear matters brought before it. is affected is yet to be determined
  • does not apply to authorities, corporations or overseas residents
  • only applies to 'matters' and not all VCAT proceedings can be considered 'matters'.

Few VCAT matters are between residents of different states, as:

  • only natural persons may be residents - that is, corporations cannot be residents
  • a partyDefinitionA person or organisation directly involved in a VCAT case, including a person or organisation that has brought the case before VCAT or who is defending claims made against them. on each side must be residents of different states
  • if one of the parties is a corporation or a political entity, the dispute cannot be classified as ‘between’ residents of different states
  • a resident of a state does not include a resident of a territory
  • a resident is a person who resides permanently in a state
  • a person’s state of residence is determined at the date a proceeding commences, not at the date of the conduct that led to the dispute or claim.

It is important that VCAT continues to resolve disputes in a timely, cost-effective and efficient way.

If the tribunal’s authority is challenged in a case with similar grounds to the recent High Court matter, VCAT can:

  • hear from the parties on whether to refer a question of law to the Supreme Court of Victoria, and
  • give notice to the State of Victoria to consider making submissions or to also be heard.

Any referral to the Supreme Court requires the consent of VCAT’s President.