LAW 2501 - Australian Constitutional Law

North Terrace Campus - Semester 1 - 2019

The course discusses selected topics relating to the Australian constitutional system. Topics include Commonwealth and State legislative power, including constitutional interpretation; the process of characterisation and an examination of heads of power specified in s51 of the Australian Constitution; the legal relations between the Commonwealth and the States and the resolution of inconsistencies between laws; implications in The Australian Constitution; Commonwealth and State social and economic relations; and constitutional rights.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code LAW 2501
    Course Australian Constitutional Law
    Coordinating Unit Adelaide Law School
    Term Semester 1
    Level Undergraduate Law (LLB)
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 3 hours per week
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange Y
    Prerequisites LAW 1504
    Incompatible LAW 2003
    Restrictions Available to LLB students only
    Course Description The course discusses selected topics relating to the Australian constitutional system. Topics include Commonwealth and State legislative power, including constitutional interpretation; the process of characterisation and an examination of heads of power specified in s51 of the Australian Constitution; the legal relations between the Commonwealth and the States and the resolution of inconsistencies between laws; implications in The Australian Constitution; Commonwealth and State social and economic relations; and constitutional rights.
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Dr Anna Olijnyk

    Professor Alex Reilly

    Any questions about the organisation of the course or general course matters should be directed to Anna after first checking this guide. All questions regarding a student’s learning in Australian Constitutional Law should be raised with seminar leaders. 

    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.


    All lectures will be recorded and placed on MyUni as soon as the links are made available, usually on the same afternoon that the lecture is delivered. A virtual lecture will also be made available in this course. Students who enrol in this lecture are not required to attend the live lecture being given. Students who choose to enrol in a virtual lecture can attend the normal lecture provided there is room in the lecture.


    Students in this course are expected to attend or listen to all lectures throughout the semester plus one two-hour seminar class each fortnight. Please enrol in a seminar via Access Adelaide.

    Class participation makes up 10% of the assessment in this course. To receive marks for class participation, students must attend the seminars in which they are enrolled.

    Seminars run on a fortnightly cycle from week 1 to week 12. Students must check their timetable carefully to ensure they attend their seminar in the correct week.
  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes

    On successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

    1. Describe, analyse and evaluate the principles of constitutional law, the criteria for validity of Commonwealth laws and the role of institutions of government in making, executing and interpreting laws.  Undertake legal research at an intermediate level.
    2. Apply constitutional law to complex problems, and reflect on and critique the operation of constitutional law from a theoretical/policy perspective.
    3. Structure and sustain concise and cohesive written and oral arguments for a mixed audience. Communicate effectively individually and as part of a team.
    4. Exercise professional judgement in the management of a constitutional law dispute, interact with peers in an academic environment in an ethical and professional manner.
    5. Analyse the impact of constitutional law principles in Australia with a focus on the diverse peoples subject to them.
    6. Reflect on their ability to effectively undertake work as a member of a team.  Use written and oral feedback, and
      self-evaluation, to inform personal and professional development.

    The Legal Practitioners' Education and Admissions Council (LPEAC) sets rules for the academic requirements for admission to legal practice in South Australia.
    Students must demonstrate a satisfactory level of understanding and application of 11 core areas of legal knowledge. This course teaches the following topics within these core areas:

    State constitutions and constitutional systems,   
    The constitution and operation of the legislature,
    The relationship between the different levels of government.

    Crown immunity
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)
    Deep discipline knowledge
    • informed and infused by cutting edge research, scaffolded throughout their program of studies
    • acquired from personal interaction with research active educators, from year 1
    • accredited or validated against national or international standards (for relevant programs)
    Critical thinking and problem solving
    • steeped in research methods and rigor
    • based on empirical evidence and the scientific approach to knowledge development
    • demonstrated through appropriate and relevant assessment
    Teamwork and communication skills
    • developed from, with, and via the SGDE
    • honed through assessment and practice throughout the program of studies
    • encouraged and valued in all aspects of learning
    Career and leadership readiness
    • technology savvy
    • professional and, where relevant, fully accredited
    • forward thinking and well informed
    • tested and validated by work based experiences
    Intercultural and ethical competency
    • adept at operating in other cultures
    • comfortable with different nationalities and social contexts
    • Able to determine and contribute to desirable social outcomes
    • demonstrated by study abroad or with an understanding of indigenous knowledges
    Self-awareness and emotional intelligence
    • a capacity for self-reflection and a willingness to engage in self-appraisal
    • open to objective and constructive feedback from supervisors and peers
    • able to negotiate difficult social situations, defuse conflict and engage positively in purposeful debate
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    1. Topic Guides (Available online via MyUni).
    2. Online Presentations (Available online via MyUni).
    3. George Williams, Sean Brennan and Andrew Lynch, Blackshield and Williams Australian Constitutional Law and Theory (Federation Press, 7th (standard) ed, 2018).
    4. The Australian Constitution (Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (UK)). Students will find a copy of the Australian Constitution at the back of the Blackshield & Williams text. 
    5. The South Australian Constitution (Constitution Act 1934 (SA)) Students can download a copy from the South Australian Parliament’s website at
    Recommended Resources

    For students looking for a more basic explanation of the principles covered in this course to springboard into the more complicated readings and exercises, we recommend the following texts:

    • Sarah Joseph and Melissa Castan, Federal Constitutional Law: A Contemporary View (Lawbook, 4th ed, 2014)
    • Gabrielle Appleby, Alex Reilly and Laura Grenfell, Australian Public Law (Oxford University Press, 2nd ed, 2014)
    • Patrick Keyzer, Principles of Australian Constitutional Law (LexisNexis, 5th ed, 2016)
    Students may wish to dip into alternative texts to understand the area in greater depth, or just to read a different perspective on the area. Good texts for these purposes include:

    Nicholas Aroney et al, The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia (Cambridge University Press, 2015)

    Peter Gerangelos et al, Winterton's Australian Federal Constitutional Law: Commentary and Materials (Lawbook, 4th Ed, 2017)
    Online Learning
    MyUni will be used to post announcements, post additional lecture materials (including slides, and where available, audio recordings of lectures) and announce assignment tasks. It will also contain electronic copies of the topic guides, online presentations, and other materials.

    Students are expected to check MyUni regularly to keep up to date with these materials and additional learning resources throughout the course.

    Students are encouraged to use the discussion board on MyUni.

    The interim assignment will be submitted, marked, and returned electronically.
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    The course will be taught through lectures supported by interactive problem-solving seminars. Students are expected to complete set readings, and may also watch online presentations and complete online quizzes.

    Lectures will provide an overview of the various topics in the course and will elucidate some of the connecting themes between the various parts of the course. In the lectures, the general legal principles in a topic will be covered, rather than the detail of the cases in that topic. This detail is provided in the readings and online presentations. 

    Online presentations will provide students with further detail on some of the key cases and concepts in the readings and lectures. These online presentations are optional; they are intended to supplement the compulsory materials. 

    The seminars provide a forum for academic staff and students to engage together on the subject of Australian Constitutional Law. Before attending their seminars, students are required to complete set readings and attempt to answer the questions set in the topic guide.

    Formative online quizzes will allow students to self-assess their understanding of the key concepts in each topic. Students may choose to complete these quizzes before or after the seminars, but we strongly recommend students complete these quizzes as they learn each topic, in order to consolidate their understanding as they go.

    For each seminar, the topic guide contains:

    • The readings students must complete before the seminar;
    • The videos students may choose to watch before the seminar;
    • ‘Assumed knowledge’ that students will be expected to bring to the seminar based on the videos, readings and lectures;
    • Discussion questions, activities and problems that will be answered in the seminar.

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    Contact time: attend 2 hour seminar every fortnight; attend, or watch online, a 2 hour lecture each week. This amounts to 36 hours of formal class time across the semester.

    Preparation time: In addition to attending formal classes it is anticipated that students will do substantial independent work to prepare for classes and to complete the course assignments. This includes reading the material, preparing for seminars, and undertaking assessment tasks. The University expects full time students (those undertaking 12 units per semester) to devote a total of 48 hours per week to their studies.
    Learning Activities Summary

    The course will cover the topics set out below. The details of the week-by-week arrangements are subject to change. Changes will be announced on MyUni.

    Week Lecture Seminar
    Week 1 Interpretation and characterisation Seminar 1: Interpretation and characterisation
    Week 2 Corporations power
    Week 3 External affairs Seminar 2: Corporations power
    Week 4 Defence Power
    Week 5 Fiscal federalism Seminar 3: External affairs and defence power
    Week 6 Section 92
    Mid-Semester Break
    Week 7 Intergovernmental immunities Seminar 4: Fiscal federalism and s 92
    Week 8 Inconsistent laws
    Week 9 Implied freedom of political communication I Seminar 5: Intergovernmental immunities and inconsistent laws
    Week 10 Implied freedom of political communication II
    Week 11 Assignment feedback/Revision Seminar 6: Implied freedom of political communication
    Week 12 Revision
    Specific Course Requirements
    There are no additional requirements except those specified in this profile.
    Small Group Discovery Experience
    This course does not include a small group discovery experience.
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary
    Assessment Task Group/individual Weighting Due Length Redeemable Learning Outcome
    Class participation Individual 10% Weeks 1-12 N/A N 3, 4, 5
    Interim assignment Individual 25% 22 April, 5pm 2000 words Y (if bona fide effort made) 1, 2, 3, 4, 6
    Exam Individual 65-90% Exam period 2 and a half hours N 1, 2, 3
    Assessment Related Requirements
    Class participation counts for 10% of the overall marks for the course.

    Each student will have the opportunity to attend six seminars over the course of the semester. Students will be assessed for the participation in all but the first seminar, and their performance in their best four seminars will used for their participation mark. Students will only be marked for participating in the seminar in which they are enrolled. Students will not be allowed to attend alternative seminars except in exceptional circumstances with the prior approval of the course co-ordinator. If a student will have difficulty regularly attending the seminar in which they are enrolled, they should change their enrolment or contact the course co-ordinator as soon as possible.  
    Assessment Detail

    1. Interim Assignment 25%


    Redeemable, so long as a bona fide effort (as judged by the course coordinator) has been demonstrated. 

    Due Date: 5pm, Monday April 22

    Description: The interim assignment will consist of a problem question and short answer question, similar to the questions to be set in the exam. The assignment will assess the material covered in the first four weeks of lectures.

    Marking Criteria: The assignment will be assessed against the following criteria:
    · Demonstrated understanding of constitutional law and theory;
    · Ability to identify relevant legal issues and case law;
    · Capacity to apply the law in a logical and considered manner;
    · Ability to construct an argument in the student's own words;
    · Critical analysis of the law and concepts;
    · Written communication skills;
    · Proper and accurate citation of sources.

    2. Class Participation 10%

    Compulsory and non-redeemable

    Students will be assessed on their participation in seminars. This means they must prepare for class by completing the readings and attempting the seminar questions, contribute in small and large group discussions and listen attentively. Seminar leaders are responsible for monitoring and assessing attendance and participation.

    In order to receive credit for their participation, students must attend the seminar in which they are enrolled.

    The participation grade will be based on the student's best four seminar performances as assessed by the seminar leader.

    Marking Criteria: Class participation will be assessed against the following criteria:
    · Preparation
    · Quality of Contributions
    · Listening and engagement with others

    More detailed rules and expectations for class participation will be available on MyUni.

    3. Exam 65-90% (depending on whether assignment mark is redeemed)

    The exam will consist of a problem question and short answer question, similar in style to those in the Interim Assignment.

    The exam will be assessed on the following criteria:
    · Demonstrated understanding of constitutional law and theory;
    · Ability to identify relevant legal issues and case law;
    · Capacity to apply the law in a logical and considered manner;
    · Ability to construct an argument in the student's own words;
    · Critical analysis of the law and concepts;
    · Written communication skills.

    Interim Assignment

    The assignment is to be submitted in electronic form via Turnitin on MyUni. 

    The assignment is to be presented in typed form using a font that is easy to read (eg Times New Roman) and using double line spacing.  The margins of the paper (right, left, top and bottom) must be no less than 2.5cm. The paper is not to include appendices or a bibliography.

    Citation must comply with The Australian Guide to Legal Citation (3rd ed) available at:

    The assignment must be written in prose style (using complete sentences), adhere to grammatical rules, and use correct spelling. 

    Requests for extensions must be made electronically according to law school policy. Extensions will be granted only for unexpected illness, hardship or on compassionate grounds in accordance with University Policy. Work commitments, travel, holidays or sporting engagements are not unexpected circumstances.

    Late Submission Penalties
    When an assessment is submitted after the due date, without an extension, 5% of the total mark possible will be deducted for every 24 hours or part thereof that it is late, including each day on a weekend and public holidays. For example, an assignment that is submitted after the due date and time but within the first 24 hour period, and that has been graded at 63%, will have 5% deducted, for a final grade of 58%. An assignment that is more than 24 hours late will lose 10%, etc.

    Word limit penalties
    The word limit is 2,000 words. 5% of the total mark possible for a written assessment will be deducted for every 100 words (or part thereof) by which it exceeds a stipulated word limit. For example, an assignment graded at 63% will have 5% deducted if it is between 2,001 and 2,100 words long for a final mark of 58%. If the assignment is between 2,101 and 2,200 words long, 10% will be deducted for a final mark of 53%, etc. Word limits include all words in the text, in headings, and in quotations, but exclude citations in footnotes. Any separate cover page, table of contents, bibliography or list of sources is excluded from the word limit. If the word limit is misstated, this may be regarded as academic dishonesty.

    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Courses for which a result of conceded pass has been obtained may not be presented towards the degree requirements for the Bachelor of Laws or the Honours Degree of Bachelor of Laws programs, or any postgraduate law program, nor to satisfy prerequisite requirements within any law course.

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from:

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level (see: )

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide (

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

    Finality of Assessment Grades

    Students are advised that Course Coordinators will not enter into negotiations of any kind with any student regarding changes to their grades. It is irrelevant, in any given circumstance, that only a minimal number of additional marks are required to inflate a student’s grade for any individual assessment item or course as a whole. Pursuant to the University’s Assessment for Coursework Programs Policyand the Adelaide Law School Assessment Policies and Procedures, grades may only be varied through the appropriate channels for academic review (such as an official re-mark).

    In accordance with the University’s Assessment for Coursework Programs Policy, course coordinators ‘ensure that appropriate marking guidelines and cross-marking moderation processes across markers are in place’ in each course. Procedures adopted by Adelaide Law School to ensure consistency of marking in courses with multiple markers include:
    • assurance of the qualifications of markers, and their knowledge of the content covered in each course;
    • detailed marking guidelines and assessment rubrics to assist in the marking of items of assessment;
    • sharing of example marked assessments at various grade bands across markers;
    • reviewing of selected marked assessments from each marker by the course coordinator;
    • comparison of the marks and their distribution across markers;
    • automatic double-marking of all interim assessment receiving a fail grade, and of final assessments where a student’s overall result is a fail grade;
    • the availability of re-marking of assessments in accordance with Adelaide Law School’s Assessment Policies and Procedures.

    Approval of Results by Board of Examiners
    Students are reminded that all assessment results are subject to approval (and possible moderation/change) by the Law School’s Board of Examiners. Assessment results at the University are not scaled. Under the Assessment for Coursework Programs Policy, students are assessed ‘by reference to their performance against pre-determined criteria and standards … and not by ranking against the performance of the student cohort in the course’. However, under that same policy, the Board of Examiners (as the relevant Assessment Review Committee for courses at Adelaide Law School) is required to ‘ensure comparability of standards and consistency’ in assessment. On occasions, the Board of Examiners will form the view that some moderation is required to ensure the comparability of standards and consistency across courses and years, and accordingly provide fairness to all law students. All assessment results are therefore subject to approval (and possible change) until confirmed by the Board of Examiners and posted on Access Adelaide at the end of each semester.
  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy ( course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

  • Student Support
    The University Writing Centre provides academic learning and language development services and resources for local, international, undergraduate and postgraduate coursework students enrolled at the University of Adelaide.

    The centre offers practical advice and strategies for students to master reading, writing, note-taking, time management, oral presentation skills, referencing techniques and exam preparation for success at university through seminars, workshops and individual consultations.

    Lex Salus Program
    Lex Salus (law and wellbeing) is an initiative of the Adelaide Law School aimed at destigmatising mental health issues; promoting physical, mental and emotional wellness; building a strong community of staff and students; and celebrating diversity within the school. It also seeks to promote wellness within the legal profession, through the involvement of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of South Australia, the Honourable Chris Kourakis, as the official Patron of the program.

    Students can participate in the Lex Salus program by attending barbecue lunches, pancake breakfasts, knitting and crochet circles, seminars, guest speakers, conferences and other activities. Our Facebook page, website and regular all-student emails promote upcoming events, and have tips and information on wellness.

    Our Lex Salus YouTube channel also includes videos on topics like managing stress, and interviews with LGBTQ lawyers and their supporters which celebrate diversity and individuality. Students who commit to 10 hours of volunteering with Lex Salus in one year can have their service recognised on their academic transcript and through a thank you morning tea with the Chief Justice and law school staff.

    Student Life Counselling Support
    The University’s Student Life Counselling Support service provides free and confidential service to all enrolled students. We encourage you to contact the Student Life Counselling Support service on 8313 5663 to make an appointment to deal with any issues that may be affecting your study and life.
  • Policies & Guidelines

    This section contains links to relevant assessment-related policies and guidelines - all university policies.

    Academic Honesty
    Academic dishonesty is a serious act of academic misconduct. All students must be familiar with the University’s Academic Honesty Policy.

    Academic dishonesty is a serious matter and is treated as such by the Law School and the University. Academic dishonesty (which goes beyond plagiarism) can be a ground for a refusal by the Supreme Court of South Australia to admit a person to practice as a legal practitioner in South Australia.

    Academic honesty is an essential aspect of ethical and honest behaviour, which is central to the practice of the law and an understanding of what it is to be a lawyer.
  • Fraud Awareness

    Students are reminded that in order to maintain the academic integrity of all programs and courses, the university has a zero-tolerance approach to students offering money or significant value goods or services to any staff member who is involved in their teaching or assessment. Students offering lecturers or tutors or professional staff anything more than a small token of appreciation is totally unacceptable, in any circumstances. Staff members are obliged to report all such incidents to their supervisor/manager, who will refer them for action under the university's student’s disciplinary procedures.

The University of Adelaide is committed to regular reviews of the courses and programs it offers to students. The University of Adelaide therefore reserves the right to discontinue or vary programs and courses without notice. Please read the important information contained in the disclaimer.