Federalism and Rights Deliberation

46 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2014 Last revised: 2 Mar 2015

See all articles by Scott Stephenson

Scott Stephenson

University of Melbourne - Law School

Date Written: July 4, 2014


The relationship between federalism and rights is an understudied aspect of Australia’s constitutional system. It is rarely analysed in detail because the premise of most theories, which are drawn from the United States, is that federalism alters substantive outcomes on rights. These theories do not connect to Australia’s constitutional experience because the country’s federal system produces a large degree of policy uniformity.

In this paper, I argue that Australia’s federal system has a substantial impact on legislative deliberations of rights issues. Even when policy uniformity results, federalism introduces additional actors and alternative viewpoints into the lawmaking process, altering patterns of discourse. I employ three case studies — counter-terrorism, same-sex marriage and organised crime — to highlight and analyse the connections between federalism and rights deliberation. This understanding of the relationship has implications for the place of federalism in Australia’s constitutional system, which is often undervalued, and the country’s approach to rights protection, which relies extensively on a deliberative process that is attune to rights issues.

Keywords: Federalism, Rights, Australia, Deliberation, Constitutional Law

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Stephenson, Scott, Federalism and Rights Deliberation (July 4, 2014). (2014) 38 Melbourne University Law Review 709, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2462579

Scott Stephenson (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne - Law School ( email )

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185 Pelham Street, Carlton
Victoria, Victoria 3010

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