Political & Legal Power

Issues Relating to Political Power

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Hukambir Kohli


What Does This Syllabus Dot Point Mean?

This is one of the last dot points on the Unit 3 Syllabus and requires an excellent understanding of all different topics. 

Contemporary issues which relate to legal power is just another way of saying, how has political power been undermined within 3 years. 

Political power refers to the operation of the executive and legislative branch and the interaction between both branches of government. 

When looking at how something can undermine political power, one must pay attention to the ability of either the legislative or executive branch has been limited. 

Below are such examples of limiting of such political power. 

Example 1 - National Cabinet Secrecy (2020/2021)


  • Senator Rex Patrick launched proceedings in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) in 2020, after his Freedom Of Information requests relating to National Cabinet meeting documents were denied by the government.

  • The request was rejected on the basis that the documents were official records of the Cabinet, therefore exempt under the Freedom of Information Act.

Ruling & Effect: 

  • Justice White, presiding over the AAT, ruled that the National Cabinet was not a committee or a sub-committee of the Cabinet (federal cabinet), hence the documents Patrick requested aren’t protected by the FOI Act.

  • This relates to political power as it shows how the government is not able to just solely create a cabinet without due process & have it applicable under the FOI act.

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Issues Relating to Political Power
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  • Due to Brittany Higgins nature of coming forward and whistleblowing the toxic workplace nature at Parliament which led to sexual assaults and discrimination, the Govt sought to amend the Sex Discrimination Act (1984). 

  • The SDA (1984) was then amended to include 40/55 suggestions in the Respect@Work Report released in 2020 which was conducted after Ms Higgins coming forward.

  • Aspects of the new legislation were making MP's, Judges and other public servants criminally liable, as previously they were protected from such liability. 


  • This relates to political power as it shows how an individual coming forward can have a domino effect, which results in the power of MP's being curbed if found criminally liable under the new legislation.

Love & Thoms vs the Commonwealth (2020)


  • This case was about two aboriginal indigenous people - Daniel Love and Brendan Thoms - who were born overseas but came to live in Australia. 

  • Whilst living here, they committed a crime and meant that they would've been deported as 'aliens' since they failed to meet the character test.

--> These two men challenged the meaning of aliens in s51 subsec19 of the constitution. The court ruled with the two people and said that aboriginal people are not aliens to the land and hence the alien definition in s51 ss19 does not apply aboriginal non-citizens as they are citizens through their spiritual and cultural heritage

--> This impacted the law making power of parliament, by disallowing it the ability to deport aboriginal non-citizens based on the 1958 Migration Act.