• Class Number 4159
  • Term Code 3030
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • AsPr Ron Levy
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 24/02/2020
  • Class End Date 05/06/2020
  • Census Date 08/05/2020
  • Last Date to Enrol 02/03/2020
SELT Survey Results

This course picks up where the introductory courses Australian Public Law and Commonwealth Constitutional Law leave off. We will look at constitutional law in further detail, focusing on how Australia and other democracies use constitutional law – both written and unwritten – to regulate the democratic process (elections, referendums, parliaments, political parties, etc). 


We especially consider attempts to use law to improve the practice of democratic politics – for example, to make politics less partisan, more fair and equal, more rational, or more democratic. We also consider whether such legal solutions have met with success or have tended to raise new problems of their own. Looking at international comparisons will help to answer questions about whether alternative constitutional systems for regulating democracy have been effective overseas, and whether or not they could be adopted in Australia.


This is a semi-intensive course running for only half of the semester. The seminar format will be a mixture of discussion and lecture-style presentation, with breaks. Discussions will centre in part around informal student ‘Responses’ to readings (see below). Seminars will be punctuated by hands-on 'demonstrations' giving concrete illustrations of the themes we will discuss. There will usually be at least one demonstration per class. For example, you will try your hand at ‘gerrymandering’ to rort a hypothetical electoral system. We will also have compelling visiting speakers such as leading lawyers and top government officials. 


Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Outline and summarise how constitutional law shapes democracy and democratic institutions in Australia and contrast it to systems in other countries;
  2. Recognise and explain problems raised by the use of constitutional law to regulate democratic institutions, including partisan battles over the interpretation of legal rules, and the often elusive search for neutral decision-makers;
  3. Evaluate how national or state political culture and unwritten constitutional norms play a role in shaping democracy and democratic institutions, and in turn how constitutional laws and institutions help shape political culture and norms;
  4. Outline, summarise and/or synthesise advanced and coherent knowledge of the constitutional laws impacting on elections, voting, political finance, parliament, and political parties, and critique those laws in terms of democratic strengths and deficits;
  5. Identify and analyse which aspects of constitutional law are most relevant to issues of political partisanship and political system fairness;
  6. Question and research with some independence to produce a ‘Law Reform Paper’ on a sub-topic of constitutional law relevant to themes covered in the course;
  7. Communicate law reform ideas to a variety of audiences.

Research-Led Teaching

Our study of constitutional law in this course often focuses on law as a tool of better political decision-making: does the law provide the best way for societies to decide public policy matters rationally and resolve social conflict? These themes reflect your lecturer’s areas of research. For more on these topics see the ANU webpage for Associate Professor Ron Levy http://law.anu.edu.au/staff/ron-levy.

Required Resources

Readings are available from the course wattle site.


·     The Constitution

·     Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Cth)


·     Ron Levy, Hoi Kong, Graeme Orr and Jeff King (eds), The Cambridge Handbook of Deliberative Constitutionalism (Cambridge University Press, 2018)

·     Ron Levy and Graeme Orr, The Law of Deliberative Democracy (Routledge, 2016)

·     Ron Levy, Molly O'Brien, Simon Rice, Pauline Ridge and Margaret Thornton (eds), New Directions for Law in Australia: Essays in Contemporary Law Reform (ANU Press, 2017)

·     Mark Bruerton, Tracey Arklay, Robyn Hollander and Ron Levy (eds), A People's Federation (Federation Press, 2017)

·     Stephen Tierney, Constitutional Referendums: The Theory and Practice of Republican Deliberation (Oxford, 2012)

·     Paul Kildea, Andrew Lynch and George Williams (eds) Tomorrow’s Federation: Reforming Australian Government (Federation Press, 2013)

·     David Hume and George Williams, People Power (UNSW Press, 2010)

·     Graeme Orr, The Law of Politics: Elections, Parties and Money in Australia (Federation Press, 2010)

Key Journals:

·     I-CON (International Journal of Constitutional Law)

·     Federal Law Review

·     Public Law

·     Public Law Review

·     Election Law Journal

·     Electoral Studies

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

  • written comments
  • verbal comments
  • feedback to the whole class, to groups, to individuals, focus groups

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). The feedback given in these surveys is anonymous and provides the Colleges, University Education Committee and Academic Board with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement. The Surveys and Evaluation website provides more information on student surveys at ANU and reports on the feedback provided on ANU courses.

Other Information

Extensions late submission and penalties - https://law.anu.edu.au/current-students/policies-procedures/extensions-late-submission-and-penalties

Deferred examination: http://www.anu.edu.au/students/program-administration/assessments-exams/deferred-examinations

Special consideration: http://www.anu.edu.au/students/program-administration/assessments-exams/special-assessment-consideration

Penalties for excess word length: https://law.anu.edu.au/current-students/policies-procedures/word-length-and-excess-word-penalties

Distribution of Grades Policy: Effective from Winter Session and Second Semester 2018 (and until further notice), the current Grading Distribution Policy has been suspended pending the development of a new policy. For further information about the interim policy please see: https://law.anu.edu.au/current-students/policies-procedures/grading

Further Information about the Course: is available from the course WATTLE page. Students are required to access the WATTLE site regularly throughout the course for details on weekly classes and any announcements and updates relating to the course.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Partisanship Elections, gerrymandering and constitutional law (2 lects per week, Mon 1-2:30 & Wed 12-1:30)
2 Umpires Governors-General and constitutional crises (2 lects per week, Mon 1-2:30 & Wed 12-1:30)
3 Constitutional change Constitutional referenda and reform (2 lects per week, Mon 1-2:30 & Wed 12-1:30)
4 Political parties Political representation of women and minorities (2 lects per week, Mon 1-2:30 & Wed 12-1:30)
5 Money politics Regulating political money and corruption (2 lects per week, Mon 1-2:30 & Wed 12-1:30)
6 Socio-economic rights Substantive rights in the Constitution (2 lects per week, Mon 1-2:30 & Wed 12-1:30)
7 Right to vote The right to vote and prisoner disenfranchisement (2 lects per week, Mon 1-2:30 & Wed 12-1:30) NB: this week will also include an optional Tuesday lecture on an additional topic. Students may attend either the Monday or the Tuesday lecture, or both if they wish. All students are also encouraged to attend the Wednesday lecture, which will wrap up the course.

Tutorial Registration

Via Wattle.

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Reading Responses 30 % * * 1,2,3,4,5,7
Workshop on work-in-progress 10 % * * 1,2,3,4,5,6,7
Law Reform Paper/ Essay 60 % 11/05/2020 09/07/2020 1,2,3,4,5,6,7

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Misconduct Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website. In rare cases where online submission using Turnitin software is not technically possible; or where not using Turnitin software has been justified by the Course Convener and approved by the Associate Dean (Education) on the basis of the teaching model being employed; students shall submit assessment online via ‘Wattle’ outside of Turnitin, or failing that in hard copy, or through a combination of submission methods as approved by the Associate Dean (Education). The submission method is detailed below.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.


No marks are awarded for attendance alone, but in order to receive a mark for Reading Responses, students must attend seminars during the two weeks in which they submit Responses. Students will be expected to have done readings prior to class.

Workshop attendance is mandatory only for the week of your own work-in-progress discussion. However, all students are encouraged to attend each week. Workshop attendance will offer valuable insights into expectations for the final essay.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 30 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,7

Reading Responses

Details of Task: Choose any two topics covered in two separate weeks. You must have attended both seminars for those two weeks to receive a mark for this task. For each topic chosen, write a brief, 750-word (max) critical response. No further research will be required; the aim is to think and write about the assigned readings. This task relates to each intended learning outcome, except #6; it is most relevant to #1, #2 and #3 (how constitutional law can try to shape democracy, and what problems arise from the attempt), as well as #7 (communication).

?Nature of Task: You must submit your two responses and attend the related seminars in order to get a final Reading Response mark. If you do not submit one or more responses, you will receive 0 for this task.

Weighting: 30% of final mark (2 x 15%).

Due Date: due 2pm on the Friday after lectures of the relevant week. (ie, 2 of 7 weeks in the course).

Submission: On Wattle forum.

Late submission: No extensions allowed for this assessment due to the nature of the task.

Word Limit: 750 words per Reading Response (1500 words in total). This total is inclusive of footnotes.

Estimated return date: 2 weeks after submission.

Bibliography and referencing: No bibliography is required. AGLC is fine but more informal referencing is also accepted. (Any work work that you rely on or quote must always be cited.)

Assessment Criteria: Responses are not marked on a rigid formal scale. Instead, they should primarily reflect thoughtful engagement with at least one of the readings for the week. Marking criteria (equally weighted):

1.   Evidence of understanding of readings

2.   Response is focused around a creative and/or thoughtful idea about the readings

3.   Clarity and care of expression

Assessment Rubrics: More detailed Rubrics will be available under the ‘Assessment’ folder on the Wattle site for the course.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 10 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7

Workshop on work-in-progress

Details of Task: An informal discussion of 5-10 minutes per student, during which you will receive feedback from the Convenor and other students on your developing paper. No set presentation (eg, no speech, visuals) is expected; instead, you will be asked to answer some broad questions about your plans for the paper (eg, proposed topic, thesis, and methodology). This task is most closely linked to learning outcome #6 (independent research on the Final Paper), but also potentially implicates every other outcome.

Nature of Task: Compulsory; you must attend one Workshop in order to present your work-in-progress. Students are also welcome to go to other Workshops as attendees. If you do not complete this task, you will receive a 0 for this assessment task. Workshops sign-ups (on Wattle) will begin two weeks before the start of the semester.

Weighting: 10%

Due Date: Discuss your work-in-progress at one of the Workshops held during the course. (Students will sign up for Workshop dates on Wattle.) [Please note - the due date will differ for each student, and will depend on the date that you give your work in progress.]

Late/change of workshop times: Students can reschedule workshops for any reason by signing up to a new time on Wattle. NB: no workshops will be held after week 7.

Estimated return date: Same day. Unless told otherwise, students should assume they have been successful in their presentations.

Assessment Criteria: Pass/fail. Bona fide efforts to discuss work done to date receive full marks. By their Workshop date, students must at least have chosen a topic and done the suggested preliminary reading. 10 marks are awarded for a pass; 0 for a fail. This Workshop is intended solely to help you craft your paper. Students almost invariably find Workshops helpful in this respect. Instead of judgement of your work at this stage, you will receive concrete and constructive advice about the substantive direction your paper could take.

Assessment Rubrics: More detailed Rubrics will be available under the ‘Assessment’ folder on the Wattle site for the course.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 60 %
Due Date: 11/05/2020
Return of Assessment: 09/07/2020
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7

Law Reform Paper/ Essay

Details of Task: This assignment will involve you selecting an area of the law covered in the course, researching the current law and alternative models, and arguing for or against adopting an alternative model or retaining the status quo. A list of paper topic options will be distributed before Week 1, along with a suggested reading to get you started. Students may also opt to write on a topic of their own choosing, but must check with the convenor about the topic’s suitability. The Essay task relates to all seven of your intended learning outcomes; however, it is particularly relevant to #6 (‘research with some independence to produce [an essay] on a sub-topic of constitutional law relevant to themes covered in the course’) and #7 (communication). An ‘Essay Guide’ document will be available on Wattle.

Nature of Task: Compulsory, non-completion of this task will result in a 0 for this assessment task.

Weighting: 60%

Word Limit: 3000 words (max). This total is inclusive of footnotes.

Release: On Wattle; ‘Essay Guide’ document to be posted by end of Week 1.

Due Date: Monday 11 May, 2020, 5pm on Turnitin.

Late assignments: Late assignments (without an extension) are accepted . Standard late deductions apply.

Estimated return date: End of the semester via Turnitin.

Referencing and bibliography: Use AGLC 4th Edition (the new 2018 edition). Reference everything you did not write or think of yourself - ie, anything you quote, and any idea you rely on. Follow all other referencing rules. Please do not include a bibliography/reference list.

Assessment Criteria: The three general criteria (described in greater detail in the Rubrics) are:

1.   Evidence of broad knowledge of the subject and of any relevant course themes (40%)

2.   Depth of analysis (centred around a single, easily identifiable, well-crafted and persuasive argument) (40%)

3.   Clarity and care of expression (20%)

Assessment Rubrics: More detailed Rubrics will be available under the ‘Assessment’ folder on the Wattle site for the course.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of the ANU culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically, committing to honest and responsible scholarly practice and upholding these values with respect and fairness.

The ANU commits to assisting all members of our community to understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. The ANU expects staff and students to be familiar with the academic integrity principle and Academic Misconduct Rule, uphold high standards of academic integrity and act ethically and honestly, to ensure the quality and value of the qualification that you will graduate with.

The Academic Misconduct Rule is in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Very minor breaches of the academic integrity principle may result in a reduction of marks of up to 10% of the total marks available for the assessment. The ANU offers a number of online and in person services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. Visit the Academic Skills website for more information about academic integrity, your responsibilities and for assistance with your assignments, writing skills and study.

Online Submission

You will be required to electronically sign a declaration as part of the submission of your assignment. Please keep a copy of the assignment for your records. Unless an exemption has been approved by the Associate Dean (Education) submission must be through Turnitin.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

Individual assessment tasks may or may not allow for late submission. Policy regarding late submission is detailed below:

  • Late submission not permitted. If submission of assessment tasks without an extension after the due date is not permitted, a mark of 0 will be awarded.
  • Late submission permitted. Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. Late submission is not accepted for take-home examinations.

Referencing Requirements

Accepted academic practice for referencing sources that you use in presentations can be found via the links on the Wattle site, under the file named “ANU and College Policies, Program Information, Student Support Services and Assessment”. Alternatively, you can seek help through the Students Learning Development website.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. Extensions may be granted for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information.
In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service – including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy.
If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes.

Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions