Restrictions on the law-making powers of the state and Commonwealth parliaments

The Constitution also imposes a number of restrictions on the conduct of both Commonwealth and state parliaments.

Commonwealth restrictions

  • Section 51(xxxi): By giving the Commonwealth the power to acquire property “on just terms” for a purpose that is within its law-making power, it prevents the Commonwealth from acquiring private property without providing some form of compensation to the owner.
  • Section 80: States that a person, who is on trial for a Commonwealth indictable offence, will have his or her trial by jury, and additionally that the trial “shall be held in the state where the offence was committed”. Therefore, the Commonwealth cannot deny a person on trial their jury, or try an accused in a state outside where the offence was committed.
  • Section 92: Outlines that the Commonwealth cannot impose duties or customs on trade between states. Additionally, it implies that the Commonwealth also cannot prevent people from moving between states.
  • Section 99: Restricts the Commonwealth from giving preference to one state over another in areas of “trade commerce or revenue”.
  • Section 116: Restricts the Commonwealth from making law which establishes a state religion, imposes religious observance, or prohibits the exercise of religion.
  • Section 117: Prohibits the Commonwealth from discriminating against a person based on his or her state of residence.
  • Section 128: Prohibits the Commonwealth from altering the constitution by outlining the referendum process.
  • Residual powers: By omitting certain areas of law-making from the Constitution, it therefore restricts the Commonwealth from making law on such areas.

State restrictions

  • The Constitution makes certain law-making powers exclusive to the Commonwealth, therefore restricting states’ power
  • Section 109 restricts the states from making valid law in a concurrent area, if it is inconsistent with Commonwealth law on the same area

See also:

Constitution of Australia 

Division of law-making powers