Conceptions of democracy and the administrative state in the shaping of Australian judicial review of administrative action

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Copyright: Blayden, Lynsey
In recent decades Australian judicial review of administrative action has been characterised as having taken a different shape to review in countries with a similar common law heritage. One explanation given for this difference is an attachment to what has been called ‘formalism’ or ‘legalism’ in Australian judicial doctrine. This thesis argues that instead, the source of the difference lies in the different normative institutional values of the Australian system of law and government. This thesis is divided into two parts. Part I sketches the contemporary framework of judicial review of administrative action in Australia. It looks at three defining features of it, the constitutional separation of judicial power, the distinction between merits and legality and the concept of jurisdictional error. This part of the thesis draws out the ways in which these features can be recognised as the product of a notion of judicial power which is responsive to institutional context. Part II of the thesis turns to a consideration of the normative values that have shaped conceptions of institutional power in Australia. This part of the thesis argues that, owing to the period in which the Australian Constitution was adopted, and certain aspects of Australian history, the Australian conception of government is characterised by what can be termed ‘new liberalism’ or ‘progressivism’, giving what can be recognised as a ‘functionalist’ character to Australian public law. A key tenet of new liberalism was that freedom was to be achieved through the state. A further tenet was that the people should be ‘self-governing’. Both ideas can be distinguished from the classical conception of liberalism at the centre of the traditional Diceyan conception of constitutionalism. This thesis argues that the presence of these ideas in the decades before and after Federation can be regarded as having helped to shape a concept of judicial power, which operates to prevent arbitrary state action and protect the overall health of the constitutional system itself, but otherwise leave questions of public policy or morality for resolution by the people themselves through the political process.
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Blayden, Lynsey
Aronson, Mark
Appleby, Gabrielle
Burton-Crawford, Lisa
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PhD Doctorate
UNSW Faculty
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