Constitutional Law (LAWS50028)
Graduate coursework level 5Points: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)
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This subject continues the analysis of the laws establishing and regulating the Australian state that began in LAWS50024 Principles of Public Law and that will continue in LAWS50032 Administrative Law. It is structured around the fundamental principles of Australian public law – constitutionalism, representative democracy, the separation of powers, federalism and individual rights – and uses them to examine more closely the institutions of Australian government – the courts, legislatures and the executive. (The examination of the executive branch and the principles of responsible government are taken further in Administrative Law).
Topics covered include:
- Introduction to Australian constitutions and to constitutional law;
- Representative Democracy:
- Composition, powers and procedures of Australian Parliaments and their constituent chambers; and
- Political rights and freedoms.
- Separation of powers:
- Legislature and Executive; and
- Judicial power.
- Australian Federalism:
- Key features of the Australian federation;
- Inconsistency of Commonwealth and State law;
- The federal division of legislative power, including the scope of state legislative power and, in relation to federal legislative power, types of power, interpretation, characterisation, incidental power, selected heads of power for detailed study;
- The federal division of executive power;
- The federal division of judicial power including the concept of federal jurisdiction;
- Governmental and inter-governmental immunities: statutory interpretation and constitutional principles; and
- Economic union: finance, trade and free movement in the Australian federal system.
- Express rights and freedoms.
Intended learning outcomes
On completion of this subject, students should:
Have developed an understanding of:
- Core provisions of the Australian Commonwealth and state constitutions, constitutional decisions and constitutional principles;
- The structure and operation of the Australian Commonwealth and state constitutions, in theory and practice;
- Constitutional skills and techniques, including constitutional interpretation and characterisation;
- The relevance of constitutional law to how governments address public policy issues and to how Commonwealth legislation is drafted and interpreted;
- The impact of constitutional law on the individual and different groups within society; and
- The main aspects of practice and procedure in constitutional litigation.
Be able to draw on this understanding to:
- Identify relevant constitutional law decisions and state and critically analyse the legal principles that emerge from them;
- Describe and critically analyse the fundamental principles of constitutional law;
- Apply constitutional law principles to new fact situations; and
- Critically analyse the relationship between these legal principles and the fundamental principles of constitutional law;
- Develop arguments as to what legal principles should be applied when the relevant constitutional provisions or decisions are unclear or in conflict.
Students will further be able to:
- Present these descriptions, analyses and applications of principles in the form of written and oral arguments that are appropriately structured, developed, supported and referenced; and
- Have enhanced general cognitive skills in relation to reading and comprehending legal materials; logical analysis and reasoning; legal research and writing; application of legal principles to factual situations; identifying relevant factual information; identifying and considering options to resolve legal problems; drawing on the knowledge of other disciplines to understand and resolve legal issues.
An ability to work in groups to solve problems and critically analyse legal materials in a classroom setting.
Last updated: 2 February 2023