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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Communicate law reform ideas to a variety of audiences.
- The proposed means of assessment for this course will provide students with at least two pieces of assessment, including one piece during the teaching period. More information about the means of assessment, including the relationship between the assessment and the learning outcomes of the course, will be available in the class summary and on the course WATTLE page. (null) [LO null]
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- Classes offered in non-standard sessions will be taught semi-intensively with compulsory contact hours of approximately 36 hours of face to face teaching. The course will also require advanced preparation through assigned readings. In total, it is anticipated that the hours required for completion of this course (class preparation, teaching and completion of assessment) will not exceed 120 hours.
- Classes offered during semester periods are expected to have three contact hours per week. Students are generally expected to devote at least 10 hours overall per week to this course. In total, it is anticipated that the hours required for completion of this course (class preparation, teaching and completion of assessment) will not exceed 120 hours.
Requisite and Incompatibility
Students must rely on the approved Class Summary which will be posted to the Programs and Courses site approximately two weeks prior to the commencement of the course. Alternatively, this information will be published in the Program course list when finalised.
Students must rely on the approved Class Summary which will be posted to the Programs and Courses site approximately two weeks prior to the commencement of the course.
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.
Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you 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). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.
- Student Contribution Band:
- Unit value:
- 6 units
If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found 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.
|Class start date
|Last day to enrol
|Class end date
|Mode Of Delivery
|22 Jul 2024
|29 Jul 2024
|31 Aug 2024
|25 Oct 2024