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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…
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…
Spain has unfinished business thanks to an ambiguous settlement. Ivan McClellan

Spain offers a lesson in how not to deal with devolution

As the UK heads towards its next phase of devolution, it should look to Spain for an example of how to do it badly. In its attempt to please everyone as it drew up its 1978 constitution, Spain ended up…
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…
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…
Services can now be expanded to include drug and relationship counselling, sports coaching, as well as stress reduction and meditation. Flickr/US Department of Education

School chaplaincy decision: lessons for a beneficial scheme

The High Court of Australia has declared federal funding of the school chaplains program unconstitutional, largely because it doesn’t meet the legal criteria for authorising such payments. But this lack…
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…
Jolly good. Now, about that small matter… Paul Rogers/PA Wire

Explainer: what political clout does Prince Charles have?

A matter concerning Prince Charles, letters written to government ministers and a bid by the Guardian to make them public has been playing out in British courts and the media for the past few years. It…
Universities could soon become a Commonwealth responsibility – so why would the states give up the power? University image from

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. 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. 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 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…
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? 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. Image from

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…
Opposition leader Tony Abbott plans to move a motion of no confidence in the government - but he faces constitutional and conventional hurdles in his attempts to hold an early election. AAP/Lukas Coch

Would a no confidence vote in Julia Gillard create even more confusion in Canberra?

Opposition leader Tony Abbott has confirmed he plans to move a motion of no confidence against Julia Gillard’s government in the next two parliamentary sitting weeks. But in the event a no confidence motion…

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