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Blackshield and Williams Australian Constitutional Law and Theory

Blackshield and Williams Australian Constitutional Law and Theory

Commentary and Materials

7th edition

By George Williams, Sean Brennan and Andrew Lynch


Sixth edition of Blackshield and Williams Australian Constitutional Law and Theory available until 31 January 2018, click on link to purchase.

This is the new and fully updated edition of the acclaimed and authoritative book on Australian constitutional law. Fresh material reflects the contemporary approach of the High Court including its emphasis on statutory interpretation as a tool of constitutional analysis. The book has also been fully revised and updated for major High Court and overseas decisions, including McCloy v New South Wales, Williams v Commonwealth (No 2), the Brexit Case and Plaintiff M68/2015 v Minister for Immigration. Always ‘much more than a casebook’ as Sir Anthony Mason said of a previous edition, the book also presents carefully selected extracts from a broad range of writers and commentators. As the reviewer for the Law Institute Journal said of the most recent edition, this book is ‘a great resource for practitioners wanting an authoritative guide to Australian constitutional law’ and a ‘must-have for law students who would like more depth of analysis’.

Key Features of the New Edition

  • A new chapter on statutory interpretation and its connection to Australian constitutional law.
  • Substantial revisions to the chapter on constitutional change to take account of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and related developments up to late 2017.
  • Fresh perspectives on constitutional interpretation.
  • Consolidation of the material on the implied freedom of political communication into a single chapter, offering a more streamlined account of the doctrine’s development.
  • Major updates to the chapters on the High Court and judicial power.
  • Fully revised and updated for every major constitutional case since the 6th edition, including Commonwealth v Australian Capital Territory (Same Sex Marriage Case), Unions NSW v New South Wales, Plaintiff S156/2013 v Minister for Immigration, Kuczborski v Queensland, Williams v Commonwealth (No 2), Plaintiff M76/2013 v Minister for Immigration, Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship, Communications Union v Queensland Rail, Tajjour v New South Wales, McCloy v New South Wales, Australian Communications and Media Authority v Today FM, Duncan v Independent Commission Against Corruption, NAAJA v Northern Territory, Plaintiff M68/2015 v Minister for Immigration, Day v Australian Electoral Officer (SA), Alqudsi v The Queen, Murphy v Electoral Commissioner, Cunningham v Commonwealth, R (Miller) v Secretary of State (Brexit case), Plaintiff S195/2016 v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Re Culleton (No 2), Re Day (No 2), Knight v Victoria, and Graham v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.
  • (The 7th edition will also incorporate decisions in pending cases including the plebiscite and citizenship cases if reasons are handed down by the High Court before the end of November).

Also available is the Abridged edition, click here for details.


Part 1: Australian Constitutionalism

1. Foundations
2. Origins and Influences
3. Path to Independence
4. Indigenous Peoples

Part 2: Interpretation

5. Constitutional Interpretation
6. Statutory Interpretation

Part 3: The Federal System

7. Federalism and the Engineers Case
8. Australian Federalism in Practice
9. The States
10. The Territories
11. Inconsistency

Part 4: The Executive and Executive Power

12. The Executive

Part 5: The Judiciary and Judicial Power

13. The High Court
14. Separation of Judicial Power
15. Judicial and Non-Judicial Detention
16. The Judicial Process

Part 6: The Parliament and Legislative Power

17. Federal Parliament
18. Characterisation
19. Economic Powers
20. Defence Power
21. International Law and the External Affairs Power
22. Immigration and Aliens Powers
23. Races Power
24. Taxation and Excise
25. Appropriation and Grants

Part 7: Limits on Power

26. Intergovernmental Immunities
27. Human Rights
28. Economic Freedoms
29. Freedom of Political Communication

Part 8: Constitutional Change

30. Constitutional Change



Reviews of previous editions:

It remains a great resource for practitioners wanting an authoritative guide to Australian constitutional law or a quick reference if a constitutional issue pops up in your practice.
Blackshield & Williams remains a must-have for law students who would like more depth of analysis and longer case notes than are provided in many of the comparable constitutional law texts. For practitioners, it is a great book to have on the shelf – you can dip into it when a constitutional issue arises and it will guide you to the key cases if you need more. Read full review...
Sky Mykyta, InPrint, Law Institute Journal Victoria, September 2014

The happy collaboration of these two great legal scholars has made Australian Constitutional Law and Theory in the words of one reviewer, "the most comprehensive treatment of Australian Constitutional law available today." I have read each edition of the book and, despite the presence of other outstanding constitutional treatises, I agree with that opinion.

Unsurprisingly, however, because the authors have added much new material and significantly rewritten many subjects, they have cutback on a good deal of material that appeared in the fourth edition. This, I think, has resulted in a tighter focus on the key contemporary constitutional issues such as federalism and judicial power. But it would be a serious mistake to think that Australian Constitutional Law and Theory is or ever was simply a student's casebook. Like its previous editions, it contains a wealth of material drawn from many writers and publications in addition to extracts from the cases, material which is often extensive and always relevant.In a review in the Law Institute Journal of Victoria, Michael Gronow said that, when he first read the extremely laudatory reviews on the back cover of a previous edition, he doubted whether any book could justify such enthusiasm. But he said he was wrong and that it was a book which one should own, read and revere, comments with which I entirely agree.
The Hon Michael McHugh's launch speech, Friday 19 February 2010

The text is not limited to students; it is equally relevant to practitioners, researchers, government officials and politicians who need to appreciate and understand the principles and basis for our constitutional framework. … The fourth edition is comprehensive in its coverage.
CJ King, Victorian Bar News

A superb book. One of the best casebooks in any country that I have ever come across.
Greg Taylor, Monash University

[The third edition] is scholarly, informative, challenging and innovative. It certainly belongs on the shelf of anybody who is seriously interested in constitutional law.
Alternative Law Journal, Vol 28(1), February 2003

Blackshield and Williams's new edition is a comprehensive guide to Australian constitutional law. Its real value, distinguishing it from similar texts, lies in its comprehensive coverage of Constitutionalism, Constitutional History, Sovereignty and Government. Further, the third edition introduces or expands material directly addressing issues of Human Rights, the Bill of Rights debate and Reconciliation. ...

[The book] provides an invaluable background resource for all things constitutional and governmental …. The third edition is a timely resource for Civil Libertarians who have an involvement in the processes of government.
Civil Liberty, Issue 189, June 2002

The book is much more than a casebook. It contains a wide range of materials, including excerpts from a broad range of writers and commentators. The contents of the book do provide, as the authors claim in their preface, 'the materials and commentary needed to understand the doctrines and theories behind the law'. More than that, it contains materials relevant to many questions of general interest such as the role of the courts, the appointment and removal of judges and the republican debate, to mention but a few. … Indeed it is surprising how much the authors have succeeded in including in the book. That is all to the good. For too long, graduates have emerged from our Law Schools ill-equipped to participate in the contemporary controversies relating to topics which they have studied at the Law School.
Sir Anthony Mason AC KBE

A book of many useful and original insights. The authors helpfully stand back from the detail and reflect on the big questions - which is, after all, what constitutional law is usually about.
Justice Michael Kirby AC CMG

An excellent basis for teaching Australian constitutional law.
Dennis Rose QC, Canberra Bulletin of Public Administration

A source book par excellence for students of Australian law, politics and government … a careful, expert selection of extracts with high quality commentary and effective finding aids.
Alan Rose, Victorian Law Institute Journal

Students of constitutional law and politics will find it indispensable.
The Australian Higher Education Supplement

The text is a rich well edited and widely sourced collection of materials capable of sustaining wide-ranging and extensive research perspectives and primary source material.
Peter Tsingos

Brilliant! The best Australian casebook I have read in any area of law.
Professor Neil Rees

A text which is dynamic and refreshing … a comprehensive compilation.
Cynthia Sneddon, Newcastle Law Review

It has rapidly and deservedly become the leading available casebook for teachers and students of law interested in the theoretical dimension to the subject.
Craig Arnott, Law Text Culture

To the eyes of an Australian teacher of law this is an exciting variation on the legal casebook genre. Its choice of readings beyond the boundaries of black-letter law and the reflectively pedagogical way it introduces materials and discusses issues are ground-breaking. This time the range of sources is often inspired.
Penelope Pether, Alternative Law Journal

There is no doubt that the book will be of immense interest and utility to all readers. It is a mine of well-presented information relating to a variety of issues of the greatest importance to all Australians.
The Law Letter (Law Society of Tasmania)

It offers much more than the usual cases and materials text. In my view - and in the view of others - it is the most comprehensive treatment of Australian constitutional law available today.
David Hodgkinson, Ethos (Law Society of the ACT)

This is an exciting book. In only two years since the first edition, it has established itself as the leading Australian student casebook on its subject. It includes a wide-ranging and interesting collection of materials, and sparse but efficient commentary. It is a delight to leaf through, and even more of a delight to read carefully on a given topic…

Students (and practicing lawyers) who read this book carefully will gain a rounded constitutional education. And they will have pleasure in doing so. When I first got the book, and read the extremely laudatory reviews on the back cover, I doubted whether any book could justify such enthusiasm. I was wrong. This is a book which one should own, read and revere.
Michael Gronow, Law Institute Journal (Victoria)


Publishing 19 February 2018
Publisher The Federation Press
ISBN 9781760021511
Australian RRP $155.00
International Price $141.00
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Law - Constitutional

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