Available in 2018
Course code



10 units


4000 level

Course handbook


This course primarily deals with the study of the Australian Constitution (Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (Imp)). State constitutions receive limited attention.

The aim of the course is to impart an understanding of the fundamentals of Australian constitutional law through the study of key judicial decisions on powers and prohibitions in the Commonwealth Constitution. In a one semester course it is neither possible nor desirable to study all aspects of constitutional law. The course is designed to provide a conceptual framework for solving problems about constitutional law by a detailed, analytical treatment of selected topics. Mastery of these should enable students to master all issues arising in constitutional law whether or not they are specifically dealt with in this course.

Availability2018 Course Timetables

Newcastle City Precinct

  • Semester 1 - 2018

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the course students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate an understanding of (i) the function of the High Court as the final arbiter of constitutionality in Australia and (ii) the techniques of judicial review as applied in Australia;

2. Demonstrate a thorough and contextual knowledge of constitutional law doctrine;

3. Identify legal issues, adduce relevant legal principles and rules and apply these to solve problems (whether hypothetical or real) based on constitutional law;

4. Critically assess the adequacy of the Constitution as Australia's fundamental law and basic instrument of government and the scope for constitutional reform;

5. Conduct high-level research, exploring primary and secondary materials, and provide critical analysis of problems and questions;

6. Prepare and present cogent arguments, orally and in writing, and make productive contributions to class discussions.


Topics covered in this course include: 

  1. Fundamental principles of Australian constitutional law: federalism, the separation of powers, responsible government, the distribution of power.
  2. Fundamental techniques of Australian constitutional law: constitutional interpretation, characterisation, reading down, severance, the distinction between purposive and non-purposive powers, incidental powers.
  3. Inconsistency (s 109).
  4. Trade and commerce power (s 51 (i)).
  5. External affairs power (s 51 (xxix)).
  6. Corporations power (s 51 (xx)).
  7. Freedom of interstate commerce (s 92).
  8. Commonwealth financial powers: taxation and grants (ss 51 (ii), 55, 96) and excise (s 90).
  9. Appropriations.
  10. Defence power (s 51 (vi)) and the doctrine in the Communist Party Case.
  11. Judicial power and the separation of judicial power.
  12. Executive power.
  13. Express and implied constitutional rights and freedoms.
  14. Intergovernmental immunities.
  15. Constitutional change.


This course is only available to students enrolled in the Bachelor of Laws and associated combined degree programs or Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and associated combined degree programs.

Assumed knowledge

LAWS1001A, LAWS1001B, LAWS1002A, LAWS1002B, LAWS2003A, LAWS2003B, LAWS3004A, LAWS3004B, LAWS4011

Assessment items

In Term Test: Take home examination

Essay: Research essay *

Formal Examination: Open Book Formal Examination

* This assessment has a compulsory requirement.

Compulsory Requirements

In order to pass this course, each student must complete ALL of the following compulsory requirements:

Course Assessment Requirements:

  • Essay: Pass Requirement - Students must pass this assessment item to pass the course. - Irrespective of a student's mark in the course, if a student has achieved overall marks greater than 50% in the course but has failed to satisfactorily complete the compulsory course component then a zero mark and fail grade (FF) will be recorded on their transcript.

Contact hours

Newcastle City Precinct

Online Activity

Face to Face On Campus 2 hour(s) per Week for Full Term

Lecture will be delivered weekly online for full term


Face to Face On Campus 2 hour(s) per Week for Full Term