The Reception of Structured Proportionality in Australian Constitutional Law

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Abstract

A majority of the High Court has incorporated a test of structured proportionality into its implied freedom of political communication case law. Structured proportionality developed in the context of constitutional rights adjudication and requires courts to engage in substantive, values-based reasoning. The Australian Constitution does not contain a Bill of Rights and the High Court is known for its commitment to legalism and textualism. Against this background, one might think that the High Court would interpret the elements of structured proportionality so that they assume a highly distinctive form in Australian constitutional law. However, a close reading of recent implied freedom of political communication case law demonstrates that generally this is not the case. Admittedly, the High Court’s approach to the necessity and balancing stages departs from the case law of the Federal German Constitutional Court. However, once a broader comparative perspective is adopted, it becomes apparent that the High Court’s approach is not unusual, especially for courts that are new to applying structured proportionality. By adopting structured proportionality, the High Court may have aligned the implied freedom of political communication with a global model of constitutional rights enforcement. The Australian constitutional context may also be less distinctive than is sometimes supposed.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFederal Law Review
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Jun 2021

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