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Principles of Public Law (LAWS50024)

Graduate coursework level 5Points: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2019
Subject levelGraduate coursework Level 5
Subject codeLAWS50024
Semester 1
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

Principles of Public Law offers a foundation understanding of the fundamental principles of both domestic and international public law, in a manner that integrates the two as far as possible, to reflect their increasing interdependence in conditions of internationalisation and globalisation.

The subject will canvass the manner in which power is organised within a state; the framework of international law within which states operate; and the relations between people and states, from the standpoint of both domestic and international law. It will thus deal with institutions of government and their operation; principles and procedures for the protection of human rights; the sources of international and domestic law; and the relationship between them. The subject will seek to explain how the principles of public law came to take their current form; to encourage critical evaluation of them, from the standpoint of both theory and practice; and to identify evolutionary trends and forces for change.

The subject is primarily concerned with the development and application of the principles of public law in the context of Australia. Nevertheless, the curriculum will deliberately draw on experience elsewhere, particularly (although not exclusively) in other common law legal systems. The subject-matter will be illustrated throughout by reference to contemporary issues, both to aid understanding and to encourage students to develop an informed view on questions of current importance. It will provide a basis on which subsequent subjects may build, including the compulsory subjects Constitutional Law and Administrative Law and the optional but popular subject Public International Law.

Finally, the subject will contribute to the development of the legal and generic skills of the students enrolled in it. It will build on the material covered in Legal Method and Research with respect to case analysis, statutory interpretation, legal problem solving and the communication of legal ideas in written and spoken form. It will take special responsibility for the development of skills in relation to the understanding and application of statutes, which in any event is integral to the subject matter of public law.

Intended learning outcomes

On completion of this subject, students will be able to:

  • Describe and critically analyse:
    • The concept of public law in common law legal systems and the historical process by which it developed;
    • The relationship between common law and statute;
    • The territorial limits of law;
    • The use of discretion in public international law; and
    • The nature, principal sources and institutional structures of public international law.
  • Apply:
    • Foundational concepts of public law in common law legal systems to solve or respond to identified public law problems and issues; and
    • Foundational concepts of public international law to solve or respond to public international law problems and issues.
  • Describe, critically reflect upon and debate:
    • The relationship between national and international public law in common law legal systems;
    • The distinction between public and private law in common law legal systems;
    • The role of courts in a common law legal system and the interface between courts and other branches of government;
    • The process of the historical evolution of the Australian constitutional and legal systems and its contemporary significance in Australia;
    • The significance of the use of a written entrenched Constitution; and
    • The historical and theoretical framework for written Constitutions in Australia.
  • Use the techniques and practices that underpin public law, including principles of statutory interpretation, to analyse and resolve questions or problems that arise in public law;
  • Communicate their knowledge, interpretation and application of principles and sources of public law and public international law effectively, constructively and persuasively in both oral and written forms tailored to audience;
  • Work autonomously and collaboratively to solve problems of public and public international law;
  • Engage in and reflect upon effective collaborative practices; and
  • Apply good standards of citation practices where appropriate.

Generic skills

On completion of the subject, students should have developed the following generic skills:

  • Attitudes towards knowledge that include valuing truth, openness to new ideas and ethics associated with knowledge creation and usage;
  • The capacity for close reading and analysis of a range of sources;
  • The capacity for critical and independent thought and reflection;
  • The capacity to plan and manage time;
  • The capacity to work effectively in a team; and
  • Intercultural sensitivity and understanding.

Eligibility and requirements


Successful completion of the below subject:

Code Name Teaching period Credit Points
LAWS50023 Legal Method and Reasoning
Summer Term



Non-allowed subjects


Core participation requirements

The University of Melbourne is committed to providing students with reasonable adjustments to assessment and participation under the Disability Standards for Education (2005), and the Assessment and Results Policy (MPF1326). Students are expected to meet the core participation requirements for their course. These can be viewed under Entry and Participation Requirements for the course outlines in the Handbook.

Further details on how to seek academic adjustments can be found on the Student Equity and Disability Support website: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/student-equity/home


Additional details

  • Oral presentation and justification of the written memorandum, individually assessed (10%);
  • 2,000 word written memorandum in response to a public law problem, prepared and assessed as a syndicate exercise (20%);
  • A supervised 3 hour examination, during main examination period (70%).

The due date of the above assessment will be available to students via the Assessment Schedule on the LMS Community.

Dates & times

  • Semester 1
    Principal coordinatorWilliam Partlett
    Mode of deliveryOn Campus — Parkville
    Contact hours48 hours
    Total time commitment144 hours
    Teaching period 4 March 2019 to 2 June 2019
    Last self-enrol date15 March 2019
    Census date31 March 2019
    Last date to withdraw without fail10 May 2019
    Assessment period ends28 June 2019

    Semester 1 contact information

    Email: law-aso@unimelb.edu.au
    Phone: +61 3 8344 4475
    Website: law.unimelb.edu.au

Further information

  • Texts

    Prescribed texts

    • Cheryl Saunders, The Constitution of Australia: A Contextual Analysis (Hart Publishing, 2011);
    • Specialist printed materials will also be made available from the Melbourne Law School.
  • Available through the Community Access Program

    About the Community Access Program (CAP)

    This subject is available through the Community Access Program (also called Single Subject Studies) which allows you to enrol in single subjects offered by the University of Melbourne, without the commitment required to complete a whole degree.

    Entry requirements including prerequisites may apply. Please refer to the CAP applications page for further information.

    Additional information for this subject

    If required, please contact law-admissions@unimelb.edu.au for subject coordinator approval.

  • Available to Study Abroad and/or Study Exchange Students

    This subject is available to students studying at the University from eligible overseas institutions on exchange and study abroad. Students are required to satisfy any listed requirements, such as pre- and co-requisites, for enrolment in the subject.

Last updated: 27 July 2019