• Offered by ANU Law School
  • ANU College ANU College of Law
  • Course subject Laws
  • Areas of interest Law
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course

Building on previous public law studies, particularly Australian Public Law, this course deepens student understanding of key aspects of the Commonwealth Constitution and its judicial interpretation by the High Court. Particular attention will be paid to the historical, social and institutional forces which have helped shape the Constitution and the High Court's reading of it.

The course includes:

  • the historical, social and institutional context of Australian constitutional law;
  •  the scope of Commonwealth legislative power, including the corporations power (s 51(xx)), the external affairs power (s 51(xxix)); the 'races' power (s51(XXVI)), the process of characterisation and the principle in the Communist Party Case;
  •  inconsistency between Commonwealth and State laws (s 109);
  •  federal financial powers and economic union;
  •  general principles and theories of interpretation;
  • the Engineers Case and implied intergovernmental immunities;
  •  the implied freedom of political communication; and
  •  the nature of judicial review and the role of the High Court.

In conjunction with LAWS1205 Australian Public Law, this course meets the requirements of the Law Admissions Consultative Committee Prescribed Academic Areas of Knowledge for Federal and State Constitutional Law.

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Synthesise and apply the fundamental principles of Commonwealth Constitutional Law.
  2. Research, examine and interpret constitutional provisions and legal authorities, and apply constitutional principles to propose solutions to constitutional law problems, incorporating a diverse range of perspectives.
  3. Critically analyse a factual problem, reasoning to a conclusion by analogy to the decided cases.
  4. Explore and analyse the role and impact that the High Court of Australia has had on the development of constitutional principles, the character of the federal system in Australia and the health of federal institutions of government.
  5. Examine and reflect on the historical and social context within which the constitutional principles have been developed.
  6. Select and apply a range of approaches to written and/or oral communication, and apply the critical thinking required to develop and communicate solutions to complex Commonwealth Constitutional law problems.

Other Information

Commonwealth constitutional law is normally taken in the third year of a combined degree and is taught entirely through seminars, rather than divided into lectures and tutorials.

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.)

Indicative Assessment

  1. The proposed means of assessment for this course will provide students with at least two pieces of assessment, including one piece during the semester. 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. (100) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6]

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 in non-standard sessions will be taught on an intensive base with compulsory contact hours (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.

Click here for the LLB Program course list

Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must be studying a Bachelor of Laws (ALLB); and have completed or be completing five 1000 level LAWS courses; and have completed LAWS1205 Australian Public Law.

Prescribed Texts

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 known.


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.

6.00 0.12500
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

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.

There are no current offerings for this course.

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