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Australian politics explainer: the writing of our Constitution

As part of a new series of political history articles in The Conversation, TJ Ryan Foundation Research Associate, Ryan Goss, writes (7.4.17) that Australia's Constitution is a product of foreign and domestic political influences, becoming one of the enduring aspects of Australian politics and law - for better and for worse.

'Since coming into effect in 1901, Australia’s Constitution has shaped – and been shaped by – our political history.

'The Constitution is the highest law in Australia. It shapes the laws the federal parliament may pass, how it administers those laws, the way our courts work, and how the federal government interacts with the state and territory governments.

'... Unsurprisingly, after 116 years of federation, there are many contemporary debates about the Constitution. Some are about how we should interpret the Constitution we have. Others are about finding ways to update our system of government without having to amend the Constitution.

'But there are also debates about changing the Constitution, such as whether Indigenous Australians should be recognised in symbolic or substantive ways, whether the role of local government should be enshrined, or whether to replace the monarchy with an Australian head of state. Or should we undertake a much more serious overhaul?

'These questions reflect our history, and the answers to them will shape our future. But they also raise broader questions for all Australians: what do we expect from our politics? And what do we expect from our Constitution?'

Additional articles in the 'political history' series

As posted on The Conversation's website: 'The Conversation is running a series of explainers on key moments in Australian political history, looking at what happened, its impact then, and its relevance to politics today.'


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