Building on previous public law studies, particularly Australian Public Law, this course aims to deepen student understanding of key aspects of the Commonwealth Constitution and the way it has been interpreted by the High Court of Australia. Specifically, we consider:
- The scope of Commonwealth legislative power, by reference to key federal heads of legislative power including the corporations power (s 51(xx)), the external affairs power (s 51(xxix)), the races power (s 51(xxvi), the taxation power (s 51(ii)) and the grants power (s 96);
- The principles of interpretation and ‘characterisation’ applied by the High Court when interpreting the scope of federal legislative power;
- The principles that operate to resolve a clash or conflict between Commonwealth and State laws (s 109);
- Many of the important constitutional limitations placed on the exercise of Commonwealth and State legislative power, including both the express limitations set out in the text (eg, ss 90 and 92) and those that have been implied by the High Court from the text and structure of the Constitution (egs, federal/State immunities, and implications from representative government);
- The important role that the High Court has played in shaping the federal system and protecting federal government institutions created by the Constitution; and
- The historical and social context in which federal constitutional law has developed.
Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
- Explain and apply the constitutional law principles developed by the High Court to a hypothetical factual problem presenting questions about the validity and applicability of federal and State legislation
- Identify the appropriate constitutional provisions and legal authorities to support the explanation and application of constitutional principles in the course of problem solving
- Analyse a factual problem, reasoning to a conclusion by analogy to the decided cases
- Recognise and explain the role played by the High Court of Australia in shaping the federal system and protecting federal institutions of government
- Recognise and explain the historical and social context within which the constitutional principles have been developed
- Analyse and assess the impact that the High Court has had on the development of constitutional principles, the character of the federal system in Australia and the health of federal institutions of government
Commonwealth constitutional law will be taught entirely through seminars, rather than divided into lectures and tutorials. Online students will attend the seminars by webcasting into the seminar through Adobe Connect.
Seminar time will be used flexibly in an effort to encourage participation and engagement with the course materials. Although there will be no separate ‘tutorial’ program, class time will be spent on problems and activities designed to prepare students for the assessment tasks (ie the take-home mid-semester exam and the final exam). There will be occasions when seminar leaders will do most of the talking, but all of the seminar leaders in the course are committed to a learning experience built on informed dialogue. For this reason, seminars will not merely summarise the reading material but will focus on an analysis of the cases and other primary materials.
For the seminar-style of teaching and learning to succeed, it is important for students to prepare for each and every classes. A document entitled ‘Seminar Plan’ will state the required reading and set out reading questions and problems which students should be in a position to discuss in class. Seminar leaders may also distribute further problems or questions they wish students to consider prior to class (which will be posted on the course Wattle page).
Although all seminars will be recorded, the seminar style of teaching means that we cannot guarantee that all of the discussion will be captured. The interactive style of the seminars is also intended to benefit those students who prepare for, and engage during, the seminar. We therefore encourage students to attend classes in person. If you must miss a seminar, you should prepare as normal so you can actively listen to the discussion in your regular seminar group. (Despite best efforts, sometimes classes may fail to record properly. If this occurs, the seminar will not be re-recorded.)
- Optional online quiz (0) [LO 1,2,4]
- Seminar participation (10) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6]
- Take-home mid-semester examination (30) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6]
- End of semester examination (60) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6]
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.
The ANU uses 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. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.
Classes offered during semester periods are expected to have 3 contact hours per week (a minimum of 36 hours). Students are generally expected to devote at least 10 hours overall per week to this course.
Requisite and Incompatibility
Meagher, D; Simpson, A; Stellios, J; Wheeler, F, Hanks Australian Constitutional Law Materials and Commentary (10th ed, LexisNexis, 2016)
It is strongly recommended that students complete Administrative Law before enrolling in Commonwealth Constitutional Law.
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
ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.