High Court in Australia 6 Essay Example

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Running Head: High Court in Australia

April 30, 2011


This paper provides a critical analysis on the role of the High Court in Australia. This is in light of the role of High court shift to political tools and law making.

The Australian High Court is the highest ranking judicial institution in the land. Established in 1901, through the constitution, it is tasked with the responsibility of application and interpretation of the Australian law. Moreover, it also deals with appeal cases and serves as an avenue for the challenging of laws in relation to the constitution. The initial objective of the High Court was to primarily deal with constitutional disputes arising from Commonwealth and the states. The High Court is headed by a Chief Justice assisted by six judges (Patapan 2010:2) The High Court operates on a full bench of judges in instances whereby the Court is obliged to help in the interpretation of the Constitution. For example, the court may be invited to reassess its earlier decision for public importance. However, there are matters that can be effectively dealt with by a single judge.

Role of the High Court in Australian’s system of government

According to Patapan (2010:4) the Australian High Court fundamental role is to settle disputes emanating from constitutional misinterpretations. In light of this, the High Court assumes an advisory role on other arms of government that are mandated to enact legislations and also execute the same. This helps in reduction of constitutional conflicts that might arise between the quarters. For example, in appointing members of the jury, the appointing authority, the constitution stipulates that he/she must consult the legislature. Upon non-compliance with the specifications, the High Court can at this point settle such disputes by providing advice to the concerned parties. For example, in the event the validity of an Act passed by the Commonwealth parliament is questioned, the High Court role comes in hardy to determine whether the Act was within the legislative powers bestowed on the Commonwealth (Botsman 2000: 70). Moreover, the Australian High Court oversees the settlement of federal and state issues.

In an environment that is governed by the political administration, the Australian High Court is a critical political actor in legal issues. In light of this, the political structure in Australia has created a leeway for the High Court in Australia to give its stand on constitutional issues. In December 2010, Phillip Woolas lost an appeal over his victory on the Oldham East and Saddleworth elections.

Singleton et al (2009:5) illustrates the role played by the High Court in settling political disputes that attract court’s attention. Australian’s High Court plays a significant role in the interpretation of constitutional issues amicably solving misunderstanding that could arise from misapprehension.

“The constitution mandates the High Court to interpret the constitution” (65).

This implies that the Court determines and provides answers to questions coming up from the Australian Constitution. In addition, it implies that the court provides jurisdiction on constitution content that has critical misunderstanding from federal courts. In light of this, it ensures that the judgments awarded are within the constitutional framework. For example, most of the appeals from lower courts arise from giving of either extreme or lenient judgments (Zines 2008:525).

In determining constitutional cases, the High Court applies the same techniques as lower courts but with critical analysis. Words rarely interpret themselves. Their meanings are easily interpreted by professionals in this case the High Court Justices in Australia. For example, the word ‘shall’ is interpreted differently in both the grammatical and legal perspectives. Such elucidation mistakes result in wrong judgments that lead to appeals by unhappy parties to a court case. In this case, the High Court solves those appeals diligently within the constitutional framework (Patapan 2000: 150).

In light of this, the High Court assumes the role of an adjudicator thus it is involved in deciding constitutional disputes. Moreover, the High Court (Botsman 2000: 73) is responsible for the making decisions on the orbit and boundary of every power such as the legislature or executive. Besides, the High Court serves as an appellant avenue of the judiciary. This implies that the court is mandated with the responsibility of responding to already completed cases. For example, as an appellant court, the High Court listens to cases afresh after a judgment dispute in the lower courts. However, considerable reasons are fundamental for the High Court involve itself with a case (Saunders 2002: 202). The constitution, for example, allows the High Court to hear appeals from within the commonwealth and interstate matters. In a classical example, the High Court rejected the decision in Engineers, a state driven case. It argued that the States and Commonwealth were immune from each other’s laws, a doctrine known as implied immunity. This role helps the High Court to isolate the presence of conflict of interests between parties to a court case. However, a case cannot be appealed any further once it had been heard and decided by the High Court. In the event the decision by the judges is not unanimous, they majority decision prevails (Taylor and Economou 2006:55).

As a key judicial organ, the High Court in Australia should effectively conduct its duties and responsibilities with accountability and transparency in efforts to boost public confidence and international recognition. For example, its judgment should be free from social, political and economic influence basing their judgments on the Constitution. To realize this, the collective participation of all parties involved namely; executive, legislature and members of the public are essential. In conclusion, the Australian High Court has set precedence and served as an example to other High Courts in the world to emulate.

List of References

Botsman, P. (2000). The great constitutional swindle: a citizen’s view of the Australian Constitution, Annandale: Pluto Press

Patapan, H. (2000). Judging democracy: the new politics of the High Court of Australia, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,

Patapan, H. (2010).Government, Politics, Power and Policy in Australia, South Wales: Commonwealth Law Reports

Saunders, Cheryl. (2002). It’s your constitution: governing Australia today, Sydney: Federation Press.

Singleton, et al. (2009). The High Court. Australia, pdf

Taylor, G, and Economou, N. (2006). The constitution of Victoria, Sydney: Federation Press

Zines, L. (2008). The High Court and the Constitution, (4th Ed), Sydney: Federation Press