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The Australian National University

The Case against Improper Purpose as the Touchstone for Invalidity under Section 116 of the Australian Constitution

Luke Beck (2016) 44 (3)

Section 116 of the Australian Constitution limits the ability of the Commonwealth to legislate in respect of religion. It provides: ‘The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.’ The limited case law on s 116 holds that the word ‘for’ means ‘for the purpose of’ such that improper legislative purpose is the test for invalidity rather than a consideration of whether an impugned law has the effect of doing one of the things prohibited by s 116. This article argues that the ‘for the purpose of’ interpretation is misconceived and therefore that the improper purpose test is wrong.

Vol 44, Issue 3, 2016

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