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.
Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
- Outline and summarise how constitutional law shapes democracy and democratic institutions in Australia and contrast it to systems in other countries;
- 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;
- 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;
- 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;
- Identify and analyse which aspects of constitutional law are most relevant to issues of political partisanship and political system fairness;
- 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;
- Communicate law reform ideas to a variety of audiences.
This course runs as a semi-intensive course, for only half of the semester. The Seminar format is a mixture of discussion and lecture-style presentation. Discussions will centre in part around informal student ‘Responses’ to readings (see below). Seminars are punctuated by hands-on 'demonstrations' giving concrete illustrations of the themes we will discuss. There will usually be at least one demonstration per week. For example, you will try your hand at ‘gerrymandering’ to rort a hypothetical electoral system. We will also have compelling visiting speakers such as government Ministers (federal or territorial) and top government officials.
- Law Reform Paper (60) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,7]
- Reading Responses (15% x 2) (30) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6,7]
- Workshop on work-in-progress (10 marks, pass/fail): Informal discussion to aid students in Law Reform Paper development. (10) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6,7]
In response to COVID-19: Please note that Semester 2 Class Summary information (available under the classes tab) is as up to date as possible. Changes to Class Summaries not captured by this publication will be available to enrolled students via Wattle.
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Four contact hours per week. Students are generally expected to devote at least 10 hours overall per week to this course.
Requisite and Incompatibility
There are no prescribed texts. Reading materials will be made available on Wattle.
There is no assumed knowledge beyond general (ie, not academic) knowledge of the outlines of the legal and political systems of Australia.
Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.
If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.
- Student Contribution Band:
- Unit value:
- 6 units
If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees. Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.
Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.