SECTION 15 OF THE AUSTRALIA ACTS: CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE BY THE BACK DOOR

The Australia Act provides a backdoor method of constitutional change, independent of s.128 of the Constitution. If Australian politicians can reach unanimous agreement among themselves, and if they do not wish to run the formidable gauntlet of the democratic process under s. 128, they can use the procedures of s. 15 to bypass the will of the Australian people. It is not that my suggested interpretation of s. 15 provides a politically easier method of constitutional change than s. 128. My alternative would probably be equally difficult and equally rare to achieve in practice. Throughout modern Australian history, state and federal governments have not been renowned for their frequency of unanimous agreement on constitutional matters. But that is what s. 15 would require if s. 128 were to be bypassed. Section 128 involves the practical challenge of convincing enough people Australia-wide and in a sufficient number of states. Section 15 of the Australia Act will involve the equally great practical problem of convincing not just enough, but all, Australian governments and parliaments, state and federal.

 

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