Available in 2021
Course code



10 units


6000 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.

Availability2021 Course Timetables

Newcastle City Precinct

  • Semester 1 - 2021

Learning outcomes

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

1. Demonstrate an advanced and integrated 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 an advanced and contextual knowledge of constitutional law doctrine;

3. Using advanced legal skills, 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 and with integrated understanding assess the adequacy of the Constitution as Australia's fundamental law and basic instrument of government and the scope for constitutional reform;

5. Using advanced legal research skills provide critical analysis of and reflection on primary and secondary materials;

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


Topics covered in the 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 powerImplied freedom of political communication.
  13. Intergovernmental immunities.


Students must be active in the Juris Doctor/Grad Dip Legal Practice [12334] or Master of Laws [12333] and have successfully completed the following courses:



(LAWS6120 and LAWS6121) or LAWS6002B AND

(LAWS6130 or LAWS6003B) AND

(LAWS6140 and LAWS6141) or LAWS6004B.

Assessment items

Written Assignment: Case Analysis

In Term Test: Mid Semester -take home - problem question assignment

Formal Examination: Open Book Examination

Compulsory Requirements

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

General Course Requirements:

  • Seminar: There is a compulsory attendance requirement in this course. - - Attendance at all classes (seminars and workshops) will be monitored and records maintained by the Course Coordinator; In order to satisfy the “Attendance” requirement, students must be present at a minimum of 80% of scheduled classes as spelled out in the course outline, unless they are able to demonstrate that their absence falls within the Adverse Circumstances policy; Unless this requirement is met, despite marks awarded in other assessment items, the student will receive a zero mark and an FF grade for the course.

Contact hours

Newcastle City Precinct

Online Activity

Online 2 hour(s) per Week for Full Term


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

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.