The information in this fact sheet is intended for informational purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice.

In some cases brought against government bodies, the statutory defence of ‘good faith’ is relied upon. But what does it mean to act in good faith? 

The term ‘good faith’ is abstract and has not been completely established within Australian law. The application of good faith varies when used in government body decisions and contract law. However, it essentially needs to involve an act done with a sincere belief without malice or attempted fraud. Honesty is vital for good faith. 

In Mid Density Developments Pty Ltd v Rockdale Municipal Council (1993) 116 ALR 460, the Federal Court of Australia explored the concept of good faith. The Court ruled that good faith was mainly about honesty, and whether more was needed would depend upon the statute in question. This means that in some cases good faith will just require honesty, whilst other cases will incorporate due diligence.

It is easier to prove someone acted in bad faith as opposed to someone acting in good faith. When someone acts in bad faith for a government body they are acting with an ulterior motive or purpose.

For example, if you make an application to your local council for a development approval and they reject it on the basis of personal animosity towards you, they are acting in bad faith. On the other hand, if the development approval is rejected because the council forgot to consider a key feature, it will depend upon the statute whether this negligence constitutes bad faith.

If you are involved in a dispute with a government body, please contact D’Angelo Legal on 9381 1147 or for legal advice.

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