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Constitutional Standing of Just Us

CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTION FOR ‘JUST US’:

Lange v Australian Broadcasting Corporation (1997)

 

All Australian citizens have a constitutional right to engage in political communication not limited to election periods.

Lange v Australian Broadcasting Corporation (1997)[1] is the leading authority for the implied freedom of political communication in the Australian Constitution:

“...each member of the Australian community has an interest in disseminating and receiving information, opinions and arguments concerning government and political matters that affect the people of Australia.”

This implied freedom is one grounded in the system of representative government instilled within the Constitution, which requires communication of political and governmental matters between the electors and the elected representatives:

“Freedom of communication on matters of government and politics is an indispensable incident of that system of representative government which the Constitution creates by directing that the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate shall be ‘directly chosen by the people’ of the Commonwealth and the States, respectively.” 

That being so, ss 7 and 24 and the related sections of the Constitution necessarily protect that freedom of communication between the people concerning political or government matters which enables the people to exercise a free and informed choice as electors.”

This is an ongoing freedom that is not just confined to the election period, as it is necessary for people to continue to receive relevant information between elections in order to make an informed decision when exercising their right to vote:

“Most of the matters necessary to enable ‘the people’ to make an informed choice will occur during the period between the holding of one, and the calling of the next, election. If the freedom to receive and disseminate information were confined to election periods, the electors would be deprived of the greater part of the information necessary to make an effective choice at the election.”

Whilst this is not a positive and absolute right, it places a restraint on the legislature and executive’s power to curtail the freedom of political communication, so far as is necessary for the effective operation of responsible and representative government.

 

Full judgment can be found here: http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/cases/cth/HCA/1997/25.html?context=1;query=lange ;mask_path=au/cases/cth/HCA

JUST US index page 


[1] Lange v Australian Broadcasting Corporation (1997) 189 CLR 520

 

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