LAWS90103 Public Law and Private Law

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 9 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2017:

March, Parkville - Taught on campus.Show/hide details
Pre-teaching Period Start 01-Feb-2017
Teaching Period 01-Mar-2017 to 07-Mar-2017
Assessment Period End 29-May-2017
Last date to Self-Enrol 31-Jan-2017
Census Date 01-Mar-2017
Last date to Withdraw without fail 21-Apr-2017

This subject has a quota of 30 students. Please refer to the Melbourne Law Masters website for further information about the management of subject quotas and waitlists.

Timetable can be viewed here.
For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 29-33 hours
Total Time Commitment:

136-150 hours

The pre-teaching period commences four weeks before the subject commencement date. From this time, students are expected to access and review the Reading Guide that will be available from the LMS subject page and the subject materials provided by the subject coordinator, which will be available from Melbourne Law School. Refer to the Reading Guide for confirmation of which resources need to be read and what other preparation is required before the teaching period commences.


Melbourne Law Masters Students: None

JD Students: Successful completion of all the below subjects:

Study Period Commencement:
Credit Points:
Semester 2
November, Semester 2
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge:

Applicants without legal qualifications should note that subjects are offered in the discipline of law at an advanced graduate level. While every effort will be made to meet the needs of students trained in other fields, concessions will not be made in the general level of instruction or assessment. Most subjects assume the knowledge usually acquired in a degree in law (LLB, JD or equivalent). Applicants should note that admission to some subjects in the Melbourne Law Masters will be dependent upon the individual applicant’s educational background and professional experience.

Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

The Melbourne Law Masters welcomes applications from students with disabilities. The inherent academic requirements for study in the Melbourne Law Masters are:

  • The ability to attend a minimum of 75% of classes and actively engage in the analysis and critique of complex materials and debate;
  • The ability to read, analyse and comprehend complex written legal materials and complex interdisciplinary materials;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate in writing a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and to critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate orally a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to work independently and as a part of a group;
  • The ability to present orally and in writing legal analysis to a professional standard.

Students who feel their disability will inhibit them from meeting these inherent academic requirements are encouraged to contact Student Equity and Disability Support.


Dr Jason Varuhas, Prof Cheryl Saunders



Laureate Professor Emeritus Cheryl Saunders AO, Coordinator
Associate Professor Jason Varuhas

Email: law-masters@unimelb.edu.au
Phone: +61 3 8344 6190
Website: law.unimelb.edu.au

Subject Overview:

This topical subject deals with the interface between private law and public law in common law systems from the perspectives of history, doctrine, theory and practice. It will explore the traditional absence of such a division in the common law, and the reasons for this, as a basis for understanding the relevance of the distinction in the contemporary legal system. The subject will critically assess the distinction from a theoretical perspective, testing whether the idea of a distinction between public law and private law can withstand scrutiny. A range of cutting-edge doctrinal issues will be examined and placed in wider context. These include whether public law principles should extend to the activities of non-governmental entities such as private firms and charities; whether the law should recognise a special set of rules to regulate public contracts; whether public authorities should be governed by the ordinary law of tort or a set of special administrative liability principles; procedural divisions between public law and private law; the role of the public interest in private remedies and of private remedies in public law cases; and whether public law issues should be heard by specialist administrative courts. The subject should be of interest to lawyers working in any field in a common law legal system and to those trained in the different traditions of the civil law who are interested in better understanding the structures and assumptions of the common law.

Principal topics are likely to include:

  • History of the concept of public law in common law legal systems
  • Concepts of public and private
  • Implications of a distinction between public law and private law
  • Overview of current practice
  • Law applicable to non-governmental entities
  • Legal framework for public contracts
  • Liability of public authorities
  • Remedies
  • Specialist or generalist courts.
Learning Outcomes:

A student who has successfully completed this subject will:

  • Have an advanced and integrated understanding of the nature of the relationship between public and private law in common law legal systems
  • Be aware, at an advanced level, of the various ways in which institutions, norms and practices might be categorised as public or private
  • Have a sophisticated appreciation of the factors and processes that distinguish public from private law
  • Be able to critically examine, analyse and assess the ways in which the bodies of law that are described as ‘public’ and ‘private’ interact with each other.
  • Be an engaged participant in debates on the relationship between public and private law
  • Have a sophisticated theoretical and doctrinal understanding of each of the topic areas used in the syllabus to explore the relationship between public and private law.
  • Be aware, at an advanced level, of the evolving nature of the relationship between public and private law and of the contemporary reasons for its significance.
  • Have the cognitive and technical skills to generate critical and creative ideas relating to distinction between public and private law and to critically evaluate existing theories, principles and practices
  • Have the cognitive and technical skills to independently examine, research and analyse existing and emerging legal questions concerning the relationship between public and private law
  • Have the communication skills to clearly articulate and convey complex information regarding the public/private distinction, thus understood, to relevant specialist and non-specialist audiences.
  • Take-home examination (5,000 - 6,000 words) (100%) (28 April - 1 May 2017)
  • 8,000 - 10,000 word research paper (100%) (29 May 2017) on a topic approved by the subject coordinator

A minimum of 75% attendance is a hurdle requirement.

Prescribed Texts:

Specialist printed materials will be made available free of charge from the Melbourne Law School prior to the pre-teaching period.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Links to further information: law.unimelb.edu.au
Related Course(s): Graduate Diploma in Government Law
Graduate Diploma in Legal Studies
Juris Doctor
Master of Commercial Law
Master of Laws
Master of Private Law
Master of Public and International Law

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