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VOLUME 45(2)

The Normative Structure of Australian Administrative Law


This article analyses the normative structure of Australian administrative law through the prism of two distinct intellectual approaches to the law of judicial review: the ‘grounds approach’ and the ‘statutory approach’. We explore the development of both approaches and track the contemporary ascendance of the statutory approach in light of the political and constitutional context within which the practice of judicial review is situated. We then reflect on the ways that each responds to two central legitimacy problems which must be confronted by modern administrative law: the democratic legitimacy of judicial review and the legitimacy of the forms of law associated with contemporary administrative government.

Proportionality and the Separation of Powers in Constitutional Review: Examining the Role of Judicial Deference


The High Court’s tentative moves toward adopting structured proportionality as a method of constitutional review have been hampered by concerns about the separation of powers. This article argues that the manner in which a court undertakes proportionality analysis is crucial to the question of whether it is acting within the domain of judicial power. In this regard, the concept of judicial deference plays a vital but thus far under-theorised role. Deference refers not to judicial submission or surrender to the legislature, which would abdicate judicial power to a non-judicial body. Rather, it refers to a court giving weight to the judgment or opinion of government in circumstances of normative or empirical uncertainty. Courts afford deference in this way for two reasons: the desirability of respecting decisions made by democratically legitimate decision-makers, and the practical advantages that inhere in relying on the institutional competence and expertise of the other branches of government. An increased understanding of these rationales for deference in the context of constitutional review would diminish concerns about the High Court straying outside the domain of judicial power. Proportionality and deference exist in a symbiotic relationship and should be addressed together by a coherent judicial theory; many of the concerns raised by the High Court about the former would diminish were it also to embrace the latter.

Statutory Misinterpretation: Rash Holding in Brash Holdings


The modern approach to statutory construction guides the judiciary, the legal profession, litigants, and academics in interpreting the myriad legislative provisions in Australian law. Yet what if critical sections have been construed in ways that are irreconcilable with the basic rules of modern statutory interpretation? One of the most important commercial statutes in the country is the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth). This article exposes one instance of misinterpretation in respect of that statute, contained in a decision of a unanimous Full Court of the Supreme Court of Victoria, and makes proposals for resolving such quandaries.

'On Just Terms', Revisited


Although it is now generally accepted that s 51(xxxi) is a constitutional guarantee, it continues to be applied using characterisation analysis, the method of analysis used to apply grants of legislative power. This article argues that this is a mistake: if s 51(xxxi) is a constitutional guarantee, then it should be analysed like a constitutional guarantee. It takes to task the High Court’s self-consciously comparative defence of characterisation analysis, which relies on the US Constitution’s Fifth Amendment ‘takings clause’ as a foil. The article demonstrates that in some respects the differences between the two constitutional property clauses have been overstated, while in other respects they have been overlooked. From a broader comparative perspective, the most significant feature of s 51(xxxi) is not its use of the term ‘acquisition’, but its lack of reference to ‘compensation’ and use instead of the phrase ‘on just terms’. By resituating s 51(xxxi) in comparative perspective, the analysis provided in this article makes two important contributions. First, it deepens existing jurisprudential critiques by providing a more precise diagnosis of the problem with characterisation analysis. Second, it proposes and defends an alternative approach that is responsive to that diagnosis, that is better supported by the text and structure of s 51(xxx), and that is consistent with the High Court’s commitment to the thesis that s 51(xxxi) is a constitutional guarantee.

Accountability in Regulatory Reform: Australia's Superannuation Industry Paradox


The Australian Superannuation Industry is generally seen as very strong and successful by global standards. However, three decades of legislative reform in the Australian superannuation industry have created a paradox: ongoing reforms but continuing dissatisfaction with areas of governance and outcomes. These include high levels of administrative and investment fees, and systematic problems around a culture of conflicted investment advice.

In seeking to further elaborate and then resolve this paradox, this article draws upon an extensive research project conducted by the authors within the Australian superannuation industry, including three voluntary and anonymous surveys of superannuation trustees/licensees. This research has revealed that fund members are vulnerable to significant and expanding private-interest rents generated by the financial services sector. This may be explained by regulatory capture mechanisms variously described as statutory, agency, corrosive and intellectual capture.

The article examines ways to better achieve public interest outcomes, and at a time when public sector integrity remains an area of particular attention, how more can be done to blunt the force of private interest rent seeking.

The Development of the High Court's Willingness to Overrule Common Law Precedent


In its first 60 years the High Court showed a complete deference to English precedent, and did not of itself initiate changes to common law doctrines. The High Court took its first steps towards autonomy in common law matters only in the 1960s when it abandoned its policy of following decisions of the House of Lords, thereby ending the practice of automatically incorporating English common law developments into Australian law. It is shown that the Court acquired a willingness to overturn ‘recent’ common law rules (those of 20th century origin) after the abolition of appeals from the High Court to the Privy Council in the 1970s. The elimination of appeals from State Supreme Courts to the Privy Council in the 1980s led to a further broadening of the range of doctrines the Court was prepared to reconsider. Notably, since the 1990s, the Court has shown its willingness, in compelling circumstances, to overrule ancient common law doctrines acquired before Federation. This paper gives a detailed account of the emergence and expansion of the High Court’s willingness to overrule common law precedent. It reveals how the High Court’s autonomy in common law matters was developed in distinct stages that are linked to Australia’s changing legal, political and socio-economic ties with Britain, and its growing sense of an independent national identity.

Review of Australia's Petroleum Resource Rent Tax: Implications from a Case Study of the Gorgon Gas Project


Australia has welcomed new business investment of $200 billion for integrated gas projects. However lower than expected tax receipts have tempered the early optimism of project benefits. In particular, petroleum resource rent tax (PRRT) revenues since the 2002–03 financial year have fallen. These reduced revenues have raised concerns about the effectiveness of petroleum taxation in Australia and pressured the Australian Government to call for a review of the PRRT in late 2016. Examined are the modifications necessary to the petroleum fiscal regime to address one of the PRRT Review’s aims of providing an equitable return to the Australian community. Findings from a case study of an operational gas project include the need for PRRT modifications, and the addition of royalties for particular integrated natural gas projects in Commonwealth waters. The article is significant for its unique overview of Australia’s petroleum taxation since the fall in oil prices from mid-2014 and the rise of gas export projects. This interdisciplinary and empirical research forms an important contribution to the current Commonwealth PRRT Review through its recommendations for change to the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax Assessment Act 1987 (Cth). It calls for more uniform federal legislation for the taxation of petroleum resource projects.

Updated:  19 May 2017/Responsible Officer:  FLR Business Managers/Page Contact:  FLR Web Publishers