2017 Conference: Perth

The Society’s next Conference will be held in Perth, 25th – 27th August, 2017. The Conference will take place at the Novotel Perth Langley, 221 Adelaide Terrace, Perth WA 6000.

Confirmed speakers for the conference include:

  • The Honourable Patrick Keane AC, Justice of the High Court of Australia
  • The Honourable Nicholas Hasluck AM, former Judge of the Supreme Court of Western Australia
  • Senator David Leyonhjelm
  • The Honourable Wayne Martin AC, Chief Justice of Western Australia
  • Associate Professor Michelle Evans
  • Ms Peta Credlin

As usual, the Conference will commence with a dinner on Friday 25th August and will conclude around noon on Sunday, 27th August.

For further information, including details about discounted accommodation and student sponsorship, please download the Conference Details document.

For details about registration sessions and costs or to make a booking, please download the Conference Registration form. [Updated 21 July]

The 2017 Conference Program is available here. [Updated 31 July]

Australian Constitutional Law Essay Competition 2017

The essay question for the 2017 Australian Constitutional Law Essay Competition has been announced. All tertiary students are invited to enter. The winner will receive the Sir Samuel Griffith Prize at this year’s conference (to be presented by his Honour Justice Callinan).

Further details about the competition and the conference may be found in the flyer (click on the image to the right).

The rules governing the competition are available here.

Entries must be submitted by 21 July 2017.

Australia Day Message 2017

The year that has elapsed since the last Australia Day has been a year of false prophets. Almost all of the pollsters, political scientists, policy advisors, pundits and professional politicians seriously misjudged the mood and character of the people. They did it in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Austria, and they are doing it in Holland, France and Australia. It is trite and condescending, and worst, undemocratic to say that the people were wrong. But the question for the Society is, what, if anything, can it and those who support its constitutional, federalist ideals take from the events of 2016? My answer would be, encouragement.

I do not think that people have voted the way they did out of an ignorant contrariety. I believe that an important factor in their vote was a rejection of multiple and cumbersome bureaucracies, layers of unnecessary, inefficient and ill-judged regulation.

The hope for 2017 therefore, is that the realisation that centralism ultimately inevitably fails because power and authority are seductive and addictive, and restraint illusive, will increase.

The Society wishes all Australians a happy and reflective Australia Day.

I D F Callinan AC
26 January 2017

New Volumes of Proceedings added to Website

The Proceedings of the Society for 2012 (volume 24) and 2013 (volume 25) have now been added to the site as PDFs. More information and download options here.

How much do you know about our Constitution?

If you’re like most Australians your answer would probably be, “not much”!

We all know there is something called “The Constitution” and we know that the Constitution has been a good thing, yet we know very little about what’s in it, or how it works in practice.

The Constitution is in fact the keystone of our parliamentary and legal system. It protects our democracy and our liberties.

From time to time, assorted prominent people suggest that Australia’s Constitution is “badly in need of reform” and that we should now embark on a large scale process of “constitutional review”.

These comments have set alarm bells ringing in the minds of many Australians who regard such attempts to “reform” our Constitution with great reserve, if not suspicion.

Written constitutions exist in many countries and have been established for very good reasons – maintaining law and order and protecting citizens from abuses of power and authority – including, particularly, abuses by governments.

It is difficult for many Australians who, if native born, have never experienced serious domestic turbulence, or civil wars, or openly oppressive government regimes, to appreciate fully the benefits of such civil quietness. Nevertheless most of us would agree that we should always be alert against any attempt to undermine the liberties we currently enjoy.

With these thoughts in mind The Samuel Griffith Society was formed in 1992, and the fact that hundreds of Australians have since joined the Society indicates the general concern to uphold a Constitution which has served us so well for so long.

Sir Samuel Griffith was, from 1903 until 1919, the first Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. It is widely accepted that he was primarily responsible for writing the first constitutional draft of 1891.This document became the basis for our Constitution, under which the six Australian self-governing colonies came together to form a Federation. The proper roles of federal and State governments under the Constitution are of continuing and vital importance.

The Samuel Griffith Society’s prime role is to ensure that proposals to change the Australian Constitution will be subjected to the most intense scrutiny. Constitutional change may well be desirable from time to time, but it should only occur after exhaustive, community-wide debate, leading up to consideration by the Australian people under the referendum provisions of s.128 of the Constitution.

The Society now appeals to all Australians to join in upholding their Constitution – not only because it has served us well in the past, but also to ensure it continues to serve well future generations.