Politics, Law and the Constitution in McCawley's Case
54 Pages Posted: 26 Apr 2007
Discussion about the relationship between law and politics in Australian constitutional law is often conducted in abstract terms. McCawley's Case presents a unique opportunity to examine the relationship between law and politics in the context of a very rich set of specific circumstances, and to do so in a manner which distinguishes between the different dimensions of 'politics' and 'law', and the complex ways in which they can interrelate. With these objectives in mind, this article undertakes three tasks. First, it seeks to place McCawley's Case within the personal, political and legal contexts in which it arose, and to show why the case provides a particularly valuable opportunity to test our understanding of the relationship between law and politics. Second, the article aims to identify and distinguish the various political elements of the case in their personal, partisan and ideological dimensions, as well as the competing conceptions of law and constitutionalism upon which the judges relied. Third, the article evaluates the role of law, politics and constitutionalism in the case, arguing that rather than being purely legal or reductively political in character, the decisions are best understood as reflecting contrasting theories concerning the ideal purposes of constitutional law and the appropriate location of constituent power.
Keywords: law, politics, constitutionalism, rule of law, constitutional amendment, manner and form, constituent power, McCawley
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