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Analysis and Comment (37)

Bundilla elder Aunty Barbara Raymond with schoolchildren in Darwin last year, supporting the cause of Indigenous constitutional recognition. Bundilla elder Aunty Barbara Raymond with schoolchildren in Darwin last year, supporting the cause of Indigenous constitutional recognition. AAP Image/Supplied by Richard Oppusunggu

Explainer: what Indigenous constitutional recognition means

Constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australia has been on the national agenda for a long time, but is back in the headlines with the news that the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader hope to release…
The first legal challenge to Queensland’s hardline anti-bikie laws is set to hit the High Court. But what are its chances of success? The first legal challenge to Queensland’s hardline anti-bikie laws is set to hit the High Court. But what are its chances of success? AAP/Dan Peled

Hells Angel takes on bikie laws in court, but what are his chances?

Hells Angel Stefan Kuczborski has launched a constitutional challenge to more than a dozen sections of the Newman government’s notorious anti-bikie laws in Queensland. These include the Vicious Lawless…
Recent protests against Queensland’s anti-bikie laws will find no comfort in previous court rulings that uphold legislators' power to infringe freedom of association. Recent protests against Queensland’s anti-bikie laws will find no comfort in previous court rulings that uphold legislators' power to infringe freedom of association. AAP/Kym Agius

Bikie laws fall foul of law of unintended consequences

This week in Brisbane, police charged five Victorian men under Queensland anti-bikie legislation, which makes it an offence for gang members to congregate in groups. But do we actually enjoy freedom of…
Universities could soon become a Commonwealth responsibility – so why would the states give up the power? Universities could soon become a Commonwealth responsibility – so why would the states give up the power? University image from www.shutterstock.com

Taking over universities: why the states would give up control

State and federal relations are almost always a bumpy ride – you only have to look at the recent stoush over schools funding to see that. So when relations go well and we see a glimpse of that perfect…
The High Court has ruled the ACT’s same-sex marriage law invalid, citing its inconsistency with the federal Marriage Act. The High Court has ruled the ACT’s same-sex marriage law invalid, citing its inconsistency with the federal Marriage Act. AAP/Alan Porritt

ACT law delivers neither marriage nor equality: the High Court’s verdict

The ACT’s Marriage Equality (Same Sex Act) 2013 produced neither a marriage nor equality. Instead it produced inconsistency, leaving the law completely inoperative. Those who exchanged marriage vows last…
The High Court will this week begin deliberating on whether or not the ACT’s same-sex marriage bill is consistent with the Constitution. The High Court will this week begin deliberating on whether or not the ACT’s same-sex marriage bill is consistent with the Constitution. AAP/Alan Porritt

Same-sex marriage and the High Court: previewing the arguments

This week, the High Court will begin hearing the Commonwealth’s challenge to the ACT’s Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Act 2013. But don’t expect lofty rhetoric about equality; the case is really about the…
The High Court may be forced to decide on the constitutionality of Tasmania’s abortion protest law. The High Court may be forced to decide on the constitutionality of Tasmania’s abortion protest law. Alex Guibord

Tasmania’s abortion protest law is probably constitutionally valid

Earlier this week, constitutional law academic Michael Stokes predicted the High Court of Australia would overturn new Tasmanian legislation banning anti-abortion lobbyists from protesting within 150 metres…
The legislation prohibits protests within 150 metres of an abortion clinic that are able to be seen or heard by a person accessing the clinic. The legislation prohibits protests within 150 metres of an abortion clinic that are able to be seen or heard by a person accessing the clinic. AAP/Mariza O'Keefe

Tasmanian ban on abortion clinic protests may not be constitutionally valid

Tasmania’s abortion law reform bill, which passed late last week, decriminalises abortion and obligates medical practitioners with a conscientious objection to abortion to provide information about access…
The binary categories of male and female don’t align with the reality that sex and gender may be fluid. The binary categories of male and female don’t align with the reality that sex and gender may be fluid. Keoni Cabral

Beyond male and female: time for a non-specific sex category

Earlier this month the High Court indicated it was prepared to hear a legal case that tests the ability of intersex Australians to be legally recognised as being neither male or female. The High Court…
Should it be the role of the Constitution to protect individual rights from being trampled on, such as by Queensland’s newly-introduced anti-bikie legislation? Should it be the role of the Constitution to protect individual rights from being trampled on, such as by Queensland’s newly-introduced anti-bikie legislation? AAP/Dan Peled

Bikies crackdown: did the Constitution fail Queensland?

Last week, Queensland’s state government introduced a number of tough new law and order measures targeting serious sexual offenders and bikies. Under the new laws, bikie gang members in Queensland face…
What are the constitutional and political issues for Tony Abbott to consider around double dissolution elections? What are the constitutional and political issues for Tony Abbott to consider around double dissolution elections? AAP/Alan Porritt

Explainer: what are double dissolutions and how do they work?

Prime minister Tony Abbott has indicated (again) that he is willing to set in motion the procedures necessary to call a double dissolution election, in order to force the repeal of the carbon tax through…
It all comes down to matters of interpretation, and the interpretation that counts is that of the High Court. It all comes down to matters of interpretation, and the interpretation that counts is that of the High Court. Image from shutterstock.com

Explainer: can the Commonwealth override the ACT on marriage equality?

The ACT’s Marriage Equality Bill, which is expected to pass parliament later this month, has revived the controversy about who can legislate for same-sex marriage, with the Commonwealth proposing to challenge…
Tony Abbott has promised a new way forward for federal-state relations if the Coalition wins government. But will he find the federal lever of power too tempting not to pull? Tony Abbott has promised a new way forward for federal-state relations if the Coalition wins government. But will he find the federal lever of power too tempting not to pull? AAP/Alan Porritt

Federal-state reform: is Abbott offering the real deal?

Opposition leader Tony Abbott announced on the weekend that a government he leads would adopt a new approach to relations between the Commonwealth and the states. He has promised to meet with the state…
Now that governor-general Quentin Bryce has issued the writs for the election and dissolved parliament, the government is in caretaker mode. But what does this mean? Now that governor-general Quentin Bryce has issued the writs for the election and dissolved parliament, the government is in caretaker mode. But what does this mean? AAP/Alan Porritt

Explainer: what are the caretaker government conventions?

The Coalition has raised concerns that the Memorandum of Understanding with Papua New Guinea over the Manus Island asylum seeker processing deal was entered into after the caretaker conventions commenced…
Do Kevin Rudd’s proposed reforms to the ALP expose the failings of Australia’s Westminster system of government? Do Kevin Rudd’s proposed reforms to the ALP expose the failings of Australia’s Westminster system of government? AAP

Rudd’s party reforms highlight Westminster woes

Prime minister Kevin Rudd’s proposal to prevent the ALP caucus from deposing a sitting prime minister has raised the hoary issue of the Westminster system. The dominant view among pundits is that under…
Legal, political and even sporting considerations will weigh on the mind of prime minister Kevin Rudd in selecting a new election date. Legal, political and even sporting considerations will weigh on the mind of prime minister Kevin Rudd in selecting a new election date. AAP/Lukas Coch

On which Saturday will Kevin Rudd hold the federal election?

NOTE: This piece has been updated on July 2 to reflect the scheduled sittings of federal parliament. One of the most important decisions now for new prime minister Kevin Rudd is selecting the date for…
Western Australia remains the only state to have attempted to secede from the Australian federation, passing a referendum in favour in 1933. Western Australia remains the only state to have attempted to secede from the Australian federation, passing a referendum in favour in 1933. AAP/Adam Gartrell

Breaking up is hard to do: why Western Australia would find it difficult to divorce Canberra

Gina Rinehart’s father Lang Hancock was a big proponent of Western Australia seceding from the Australian federation, and every time the latest figures on GST distributions are released, sympathetic sentiments…
Will the push for constitutional recognition of local government actually improve Australia’s system of government? Will the push for constitutional recognition of local government actually improve Australia’s system of government? AAP/Alan Porritt

The perils of constitutional recognition of local government

Is this the referendum we don’t need to hold? And how many Australians truly understand the potential impact of their actions when they vote in referendum of the constitutional recognition of local government…
Australians will vote on constitutional recognition for local government in September - but what are the reasons behind the referendum? Australians will vote on constitutional recognition for local government in September - but what are the reasons behind the referendum? AAP/Sophie Marr

Explainer: why are we having a referendum on local government?

The federal government has announced that Australians will be voting in a referendum on September 14 - federal election day - to decide whether local government should be recognised in the Australian Constitution…
Governor-General Quentin Bryce’s term ends after the election. Is it in the purview of the Gillard government to announce her replacement? Governor-General Quentin Bryce’s term ends after the election. Is it in the purview of the Gillard government to announce her replacement? AAP/Lukas Coch

Taking care of the caretaker conventions

Could the Gillard government appoint a successor to the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, to take up office in March 2014 when Bryce’s appointment expires? The press has reported that opposition leader…
Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Health Minister Tanya Plibersek during Question Time at Parliament House in 2012. Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Health Minister Tanya Plibersek during Question Time at Parliament House in 2012. Penny Bradfield/AAP

Health reform: turning a deaf ear to the High Court and a blind eye to the Constitution

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Health Minister Tanya Plibersek have announced they will return health payments to Victoria that had previously been cut from its allocation under the National Health Reform…
Changes to Murray Darling policy are a big win for SA, but NSW and Victoria aren’t impressed. Changes to Murray Darling policy are a big win for SA, but NSW and Victoria aren’t impressed. Feral Arts

Murray-Darling: why Australia needs intergovernmental cooperation

On Friday, the Prime Minister announced that the Commonwealth will spend $1.7 billion to increase water return to the Murray-Darling River by a further 450 gigalitres. The announcement is a big win for…
Local Government minister Simon Crean is set to dump a promised referendum of constitutional recognition for councils. Local Government minister Simon Crean is set to dump a promised referendum of constitutional recognition for councils. AAP/Alan Porrit

Constitutional recognition for councils: a better governed Australia

Few oppose constitutional recognition of local government as a concept. Indeed, while the current debate concerns recognition in the federal constitution, local government has been readily accepted in…
Why did the government drop the ball on constitutional recognition? Why did the government drop the ball on constitutional recognition? AAP/David Crosling

Failure to launch: what happened to Indigenous recognition?

The Gillard government has finally confirmed it will not be asking Australians to vote in a referendum for the constitutional recognition of Indigenous peoples in this term of parliament. Although agreeing…
The final pieces of the historical puzzle around the 1975 Whitlam dismissal are not as sensational as they first seem. The final pieces of the historical puzzle around the 1975 Whitlam dismissal are not as sensational as they first seem. Image courtesy of National Archives of Australia. NAA: A6180, 13/11/75/33

Mason’s role in the 1975 dismissal ‘unprecedented’? Hardly …

Much hyperbole has been generated by the recent revelations concerning Sir Anthony Mason’s involvement in the 1975 dismissal, but for the most part it shows ignorance of the past. Earlier this week, The…
It’s not time to break out the confetti yet; Tasmania faces legal hurdles before it can allow same-sex marriage. It’s not time to break out the confetti yet; Tasmania faces legal hurdles before it can allow same-sex marriage. AAP/Tracey Nearmy

Explainer: can Tasmania legalise same-sex marriage?

Does the Tasmanian Parliament have the power to pass a law permitting same-sex marriage? The short answer is yes. But the more difficult question is whether that law will be effective or whether it will…
The government is trying to rush legislation through the parliament that could fundamentally change how it spends money. The government is trying to rush legislation through the parliament that could fundamentally change how it spends money. AAP/Alan Porritt

Bringing down the House? Keeping school chaplains means a surrender to the Executive

In days of old, when Legislative Councils were appointed bodies, Labor Governments would try to swamp them with suicide squads of members who, once appointed, would vote to abolish the House. On Tuesday…
The military court system in Australia has gone through many ups and downs with more to come. The military court system in Australia has gone through many ups and downs with more to come. AAP Image/Australian Department of Defence

The new Australian Military Court: a fair go for defence force personnel?

Last week, the Commonwealth Attorney-General Nicola Roxon introduced a bill establishing the Australian Military Court as a constitutional court. If the bill passes, it will bring Australia into line with…
If Australia is to set an example in the region, we need to clean up our constitution and abolish the race powers act. If Australia is to set an example in the region, we need to clean up our constitution and abolish the race powers act. AAP/Courtesy of Traditional Owners and Rio Tinto Alcan/Peter Eve

Australia will need a strong constitution for the Asian Century

AUSTRALIA IN THE ASIAN CENTURY – A series examining Australia’s role in the rapidly transforming Asian region. Delivered in partnership with the Australian government. Here, Dr Matt Harvey argues that…
The High Court decision against Palm Island rioter, Lex Wotton highlights concerns about how little our constitution does to protect us. The High Court decision against Palm Island rioter, Lex Wotton highlights concerns about how little our constitution does to protect us. AAP Image/Ian Hitchcock

Silencing Lex Wotton: Palm Island riot decision a blow for freedom of speech

When a prisoner has served their time, it’s difficult to understand why they would be stopped from engaging in public debate or communicating with the media. But a new precedent has been set by the High…
It’s essential that we get it right when it comes to changing our constitution to recognise Aboriginal Australians. It’s essential that we get it right when it comes to changing our constitution to recognise Aboriginal Australians. Flickr/Rusty Stewart

Indigenous recognition: we can’t afford to water down constitutional reform

Earlier this year, the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians gave its final recommendations to the government. Recognition would acknowledge the unique place of Aboriginal…
The Treaty of Waitangi reminds us that indigenous people must be treated honourably before the law. The Treaty of Waitangi reminds us that indigenous people must be treated honourably before the law. Sids1

A matter of trust – what we can learn from the Treaty of Waitangi

Much is made of the Treaty of Waitangi as the vehicle for the recognition of Maori in New Zealand’s legal system. Australia lacks a treaty, the argument goes, and therefore is constitutionally disabled…
We should take a closer look at the history of the Constitution before reforming it. We should take a closer look at the history of the Constitution before reforming it. Flickr/Rusty Stewart

Indigenous recognition and the Section 25 quandary

The one recommendation of the Expert Panel on Indigenous Constitutional Recognition that everyone appears to support is the repeal of section 25 of the Constitution. Section 25 says that if a State law…
Newly appointed Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon may be surprised to find the bill of rights she doesn’t want is already in place. Newly appointed Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon may be surprised to find the bill of rights she doesn’t want is already in place. AAP Image/Julian Smith

Roxon got it right: we don’t need a bill of rights because we’ve already got one

The new Commonwealth Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon has said that in her new role she would not push for a bill of rights to be included in the constitution. But many would be surprised to learn she doesn’t…
It’s time to recognise the first Australians in our constitution. It’s time to recognise the first Australians in our constitution. Flickr/Rusty Stewart

It’s time to recognise Indigenous Australia in our constitution

Last week, the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples concluded its deliberations on reform proposals. While we wait on the release of their final report…
It’s time to look seriously at changing our constitution. An apology is not enough. It’s time to look seriously at changing our constitution. An apology is not enough. AAP/Dave Hunt

Indigenous Australians the key to a strong Constitution

There is unfinished business in Australia, and it’s time to start a serious conversation about resolving it. We need to talk about the planned referendum on Indigenous recognition in the Australian Constitution…