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 a capacity to work efficiently and with critical engagement with complex and sophisticated primary constitutional law texts (i.e constitutional provisions and case law)

2. Demostrate the capacity to craft coherent and persuasive constitutional law arguments in an adversarial context recognising also the limitations of such argumentation;

3. Demonstrate a contextual and applied 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

4. Demonstrate a thorough and contextual knowledge of constitutional law docterine particularly in its application to real or hypothetical constitutional law problems;

5. Demonstrate a high level of skill on academic and professional legal writing


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 trade, commerce and intercourse (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. Implied freedom of political communication.
  14. Intergovernmental immunities.


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, LAWS1003A LAWS1003B, LAWS2004A LAWS2004B, LAWS3004A, LAWS3004B, LAWS4011

Assessment items

Written Assignment: Case Analysis

Written Assignment: Written (and Oral) Moot Submission *

Formal Examination: Open Book Formal Examination

* This assessment has a compulsory requirement.

Contact hours

Newcastle City Precinct

Online Activity

Online 2 hour(s) per Week for Full Term

Weekly Online Lecture for full term.


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