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Unit of study_

LAWS5101: Advanced Constitutional Law

2024 unit information

The main purpose of this course is to build on the fundamental understandings achieved in Public Law and Federal Constitutional Law in order to provide a far broader and deeper understanding of the subject. This will be achieved by, first, examining in depth the fundamental aspects and tenets of constitutionalism in the Australian context and from a more jurisprudential perspective. Reliance will be placed on comparative jurisdictions, in particular the United States and the United Kingdom. A detailed analysis will first be attempted of the following major concepts in the more precise context of Westminster-based systems: the rule of law, parliamentary sovereignty, the ambit of executive power and the precise status and principles of responsible government, judicial review and constitutional rights, separation of powers, constitutional conventions, the reserve powers of the Governor-General, the status of common law principles as fundamental constitutional guarantees. A principal focus will be the nature and ambit of executive power, and the evolving jurisrprudence of the High Court on this question. The course will examine the evolving notion of parliamentary supremacy from Diceyan orthodoxy to the more recent debates involving leading constitutional scholars in the UK and Australia. In relation to separation of powers, the different constitutional consequences which result when the doctrine is entrenched in a written constitution (as in the US and Australia) on the one hand, and when it exists as a convention without being so entrenched, on the other, will be explored. The relationship between executive and legislative power will be the principal focus. This will enhance an understanding of the definition, nature and limits of judicial, executive and legislative power and their inter-relationship, an issue which becomes particularly important at moments of constitutional uncertainty and stress, especially at the crossroads of their power. The functionalist/formalist debate will be examined to determine the most appropriate interpretive methodology with respect to the application of the constitutional limitations which may emanate from the separation of powers. In so doing, the principal decisions of the High Court of Australia and other relevant courts in other jurisdictions. There will be an opportunity to evaluate major Australian constitutional decisions in a detail not possible in the prerequisite and undergraduate courses. A principal underlying theme will be the extent to which the tenets of constitutionalism are being complied with in Australia and the extent to which they can be. The course will be enriched and made more presently relevant by the exploration of current developing themes in constitutional law. The precise topics may vary from year to year. Depending on the topic, this may involve the introduction of completely new themes or the integration of developments with topics already examined.

Unit details and rules

Managing faculty or University school:


Code LAWS5101
Academic unit Law
Credit points 6
LAWS5007 and LAWS5011
Assumed knowledge:

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. demonstrate a deeper understanding of Australian constitutional law, including from a comparative, historical and jurisprudential perspective, than that which had been developed in the compulsory units, Public Law and Federal Constitutional Law.
  • LO2. demonstrate a thorough appreciation of the nature of the executive and executive power pursuant to the Australian constitution, the implied constitutional principles which shape and determine these (eg, representative and responsible government, the separation of powers and relevant principles recognised by the common law); and the constitutional regulation of the relationship between executive power and, mainly, legislative power and also judicial power.
  • LO3. demonstrate a thorough appreciation of those constitutional issues arising from the above which are relevant to considerations of constitutional reform.
  • LO4. demonstrate enhanced legal research skills, analytical skills, critical judgment and thinking in a legal context and legal writing skills through the articulation of the resolution of complex legal issues.

Unit availability

This section lists the session, attendance modes and locations the unit is available in. There is a unit outline for each of the unit availabilities, which gives you information about the unit including assessment details and a schedule of weekly activities.

The outline is published 2 weeks before the first day of teaching. You can look at previous outlines for a guide to the details of a unit.

Session MoA ?  Location Outline ? 
Semester 2 2024
Normal day Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney
Outline unavailable
Session MoA ?  Location Outline ? 
Semester 1 2020
Normal day Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney
Semester 1 2022
Normal day Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney
Semester 1 2023
Normal day Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

Modes of attendance (MoA)

This refers to the Mode of attendance (MoA) for the unit as it appears when you’re selecting your units in Sydney Student. Find more information about modes of attendance on our website.