ON 1 JULY 1983, the High Court of Australia delivered Commonwealth v Tasmania (“Tasmanian Dam case”)  HCA 21; (1983) 158 CLR 1 (1 July 1983).
The Tasmanian Government, who sought to construct a hydro-electric dam on the Franklin River, brought a constitutional challenge to the Commonwealth’s World Heritage Properties Conservation Act 1983 on various grounds including that the Commonwealth had no power to legislate on such a matter.
The challenge was unsuccessful. The court ruled that the Act was validly enacted under the Commonwealth’s external affairs power under s51 of the Constitution as it gave effect to their international treaty obligations under the Convention on the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.
As a result of this decision, the construction of a hydro-electric dam in Tasmania’s Franklin River was blocked.
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