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Key information

High Court of Australia

Intention to create legal relations

Full case

AustraliaAdministration of PNG v Leahy

(1961) 105 CLR 6


There was an agreement between the parties (instigated by Leahy) that PNG officers would eradicate ticks infesting the plaintiff’s cattle.  They failed in their endeavours and Leahy sued – he succeeded at first instance.


Dixon CJ

There was no contract as there was no intention to create legal relations.  The Department was doing no more than giving effect to government policy for tick eradication when it agreed to assist Leahy.  The plaintiff had sought aid and in responding the defendant was doing no more than performing a function of government in accordance with settled policy.

McTiernan J

Agreed promises alone are insufficient to make a contract.  The Administration did not intend to enter into legal relations with Leahy – it was an administrative arrangement in accordance with the Administration’s agricultural policy – McTiernan considered it analogous to a ‘social service’ which does not have ‘as its basis a legal relationship of a contractual nature’. 

Kitto J

Reached the same conclusion