Australia: Devotion to Legalism

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The Commonwealth of Australia is a federation of six states, whose constitution was enacted by the United Kingdom Parliament in 1900, when Australia was part of the British Empire. The six states had previously been separate British colonies, each with its own constitution that continued in force after 1900, although subject to the new federal constitution. The authority of the United Kingdom Parliament to change Australian law was not formally terminated until 1986, when the Australia Act was passed by both the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth Parliaments. The fundamental documents of Australian constitutional law therefore comprise the federal constitution, the Australia Act, and the six state constitutions. This chapter looks at Australia's constitution and its origins and structure, judicial interpretation of the federal constitution, judicial review, High Court and its judges, problems and methods of constitutional interpretation, causes of interpretive difficulties, sources of interpretive principles, current interpretive methodology, extrinsic evidence of framers' intentions and purposes, 'structural' principles and implications, separation of powers, balance between legitimate and illegitimate creativity, and institutional and cultural factors underlying constitutional interpretation.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInterpreting Constitutions: A Comparative Study
EditorsJeffrey Goldsworthy
Place of PublicationNew York USA
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages55
ISBN (Electronic)9780191706707
ISBN (Print)9780199226474
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2007


  • Australia
  • Constitution
  • Constitutional interpretation
  • Creativity
  • High court
  • Judges
  • Judicial review
  • Separation of powers

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