Meaning of ‘agreement’

Bob Brown Foundation v Cth [2021] FCAFC 5

Normally an ‘agreement’ is an accord which is legally enforceable.  BBF argued this seeking to prevent forestry operations affecting habitat of the swift parrot.  Earlier approvals were invalid, said BBF, because the inter-governmental agreement (IGA) in question was not an ‘agreement that is in force’ under the legislation6.  This was rejected (at [47-49]).

The court pointed out that not every ‘agreement’ must be judicially enforceable7.  IGAs, being political in nature, are not intended to be adjudicated on by courts.  Requiring this ‘agreement’ to be enforceable would also defeat the statutory purpose (at [68]).  iTip – an IGA is not ‘merely a scrap of paper’8.

This principle is from Episode 70 of interpretation NOW!


6 s 4 of the Regional Forest Agreements Act 2002 (Cth) RFA definition.

7 South Australia 108 CLR 130, cf Rose in Finn (ed) Essays on Contract (at 240).

8 South Australia (at 155), cf Seddon Government Contracts (at [3.6]).