The Architecture of Public Health Law Reform: Harmonisation of Law in a Federal System

33 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2009 Last revised: 13 Oct 2016

See all articles by Brian Opeskin

Brian Opeskin

University of Technology Sydney

Date Written: June 9, 1998


This article examines the processes for harmonising public health law in Australia. Some of these processes are unilateral, such as the growth of federal legislation in areas previously of state concern, or the use of federal fiscal powers to coerce uniform state action. Other processes are multilateral, such as reciprocal legislative schemes, mirror legislation, the ‘application of laws’ method, agreed policies with separately drafted legislation, complementary legislative schemes, joint federal-state bodies, and reference of power from the state legislatures to the federal legislature. The article illustrates how these processes have operated in selected areas of public health law, and appraises these alternatives so that informed policy choices may be made. The article concludes that whether or not available mechanisms should be invoked to harmonise public health law in Australia depends on what substantive values can be advanced and at what cost. It is unrealistic to expect the same method of harmonisation to be suitable for all areas of public health law. The challenge is to ensure that harmonisation processes are harnessed to achieve high standards of public health in Australia, while simultaneously accommodating other values at the core of Australia's federal system of government.

Keywords: Australia, public health law, harmonisation of laws, federal values, centralisation of legislative power, fiscal coercion, reciprocal legislative schemes, mirror legislation, reference of power, federal-state bodies, supranational standard-setting

Suggested Citation

Opeskin, Brian, The Architecture of Public Health Law Reform: Harmonisation of Law in a Federal System (June 9, 1998). (1998) 22 Melbourne University Law Review 337, Available at SSRN: or

Brian Opeskin (Contact Author)

University of Technology Sydney ( email )

Faculty of Law
University of Technology Sydney
Sydney, New South Wales 2007
+61-2-95149670 (Phone)


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