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Man Haron Monis was a madman with a persecution complex, but his frustration with the legal system wasn’t without justification. AAP/website screenshot

Man Haron Monis’s poison letters split the High Court and laid bare a flaw in the system

This week’s hostage tragedy in Sydney’s Lindt Cafe will cast a long shadow. It will force us to rethink our readiness for emergencies and the adequacy of our criminal justice system. There has already…
A people’s convention could be the circuit-breaker that constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians needs. AAP/Tracey Nearmy

A people’s convention can make Indigenous recognition a reality

Important steps have been made in 2014 in the campaign to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia’s Constitution. Prime Minister Tony Abbott affirmed his commitment to hold…
Should Australia’s High Court judges be representative of the community that their rulings affect? Should politics play a part? AAP/Lukas Coch

Appointing Australia’s highest judges deserves proper scrutiny

Late last week, the federal government appointed Geoffrey Nettle, a Victorian Court of Appeal judge, to the High Court to replace retiring justice Susan Crennan. Nettle is an excellent lawyer and his appointment…
In a 6:1 decision, the High Court upheld the validity of two offences created under Queensland’s anti-bikie measures. AAP/Dan Peled

High Court invites fresh challenge to Queensland’s bikie laws

Last Friday, the High Court handed down its decision in a constitutional challenge to Queensland’s controversial suite of anti-bikie laws. This decision is as interesting for what it does not decide as…
The Abbott government’s Emissions Reduction Fund could be vulnerable to a future constitutional challenge in the wake of recent High Court decisions. AAP/Lukas Coch

Explainer: is Direct Action constitutionally valid?

Late last week, the Senate passed the Abbott government’s controversial A$2.5 billion Emissions Reduction Fund, the centrepiece of its Direct Action Plan to combat climate change. Its passage has been…
Andrew Wilkie argues that parliamentary debate and authorisation should be necessary for Australia to go to war. AAP/Gary Schafer

Explainer: Australia’s war powers and the role of parliament

With the announcement of Australia’s involvement in dropping aid to Kurdish fighters engaged against Islamic State extremists in northern Iraq, questions have again arisen about who should control Australia’s…
If Senator Richard di Natale were to win the federal parliament’s support for his bill to legalise euthanasia, it would probably override state bans. AAP/Lukas Coch

Explainer: could federal law end the state bans on euthanasia?

Greens senator Richard Di Natale is circulating a bill to legalise euthanasia throughout Australia, the Medical Services (Dying with Dignity) Exposure Draft Bill. The key provision permits – subject to…
Fred Chaney and Adam Goodes have teamed up to push for constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians, but it’s proving to be a long road. AAP/Newzulu/Hugh Peterswald

Constitutional recognition alive, but it’s still no ‘barbecue stopper’

Australia has taken another step towards constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait…
The Apology of 2008 demonstrated how symbolic actions have powerful practical consequences for reconciliation. AAP/Julian Smith

Indigenous recognition in our highest law is the right thing to do

Later this year, we expect to see draft recommendations from a parliamentary committee on recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian constitution and ensuring there is…
The High Court has unanimously re-endorsed its decision in a successful 2012 challenge to the government funding the National Schools Chaplaincy Program. AAP/Lukas Coch

Commonwealth left scrambling by school chaplaincy decision

The High Court has again put the future of the federal government’s school chaplaincy program in jeopardy, confirming its 2012 decision that the Commonwealth’s spending programs must be supported by valid…
Unless Victorian opposition leader Daniel Andrews accepts Geoff Shaw’s vote, there will be no progress on anything in the state’s political crisis. AAP/Julian Smith

Explainer: the constitutional implications of Victoria’s ‘crisis’

After a night of political uncertainty, the Victorian Labor opposition has indicated it will move to have ex-Liberal MP Geoff Shaw expelled from parliament instead of accepting his offer of support for…
There is now a large disparity between the respective responsibilities of the Commonwealth and the states and their relative capacities to fund those responsibilities. AAP/Alan Porritt

Federation frozen in time fails as a model of accountable government

The federal budget reignited debate over federal-state relations with a decision to cut some $80 billion in funding for the state responsibilities of schools and hospitals over the coming years. But how…
Following the announcement of the budget, a mass of legislation to implement the new policies and allow the government to spend money is introduced into parliament. AAP/Lukas Coch

Explainer: can the Senate block the budget?

In the days since the Abbott government released its first budget, the Labor Party, the Greens and the Palmer United Party have all said they will block parts of it in the Senate. Threats to block the…
The High Court has given the Commonwealth two serious warnings that it needs to review its extensive spending program since 2009, but these have gone largely unheard. AAP/Lukas Coch

Commonwealth spending back in the High Court’s sights

This week, the High Court heard Toowoomba man Ron Williams’ second challenge to the constitutionality of the Commonwealth’s funding of the National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program. While…
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…
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…
It’s set to be a big few months for the High Court of Australia. What are the key cases to watch? petelawley

The High Court – coming to a Centre Stage near you

In coming months, the High Court – the highest court in Australia and the final arbiter on the meaning of the Constitution – will decide several high-profile cases. These decisions, which may result in…
Queensland attorney-general Jarrod Bleijie has taken decisions about detaining sex offenders in prison after their sentences have been served into his own hands. shutterstock

Listen up, Queensland – courts are for justice, politicians are for politics

There is a good constitutional reason for not allowing politicians to make decisions which result in imprisonment. It’s called the separation of powers and is meant to ensure that politics does not intrude…

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