The Rule of Law

The following is posted on the website of the Attorney-General’s Department:

The Rule of Law

Our department has primary responsibility for supporting the Australian Government in protecting and promoting the rule of law.

The rule of law underpins the way Australian society is governed. Everyone—including citizens and the government—is bound by and entitled to the benefit of laws.

We uphold the rule of law through our daily work to ensure:

  • laws are clear, predictable and accessible;
  • laws are publicly made and the community is able to participate in the law-making process;
  • laws are publicly adjudicated in courts that are independent from the executive arm of government;
  • dispute settlement is fair and efficient where parties cannot resolve disputes themselves;
  • We support the Australian Government in being accountable for actions, making rational decisions and protecting human rights.

  • We advance the rule of law internationally by actively promoting adherence to the global rules-based system and helping to build effective governance and stability in our region.

    The Rule of Law

    There is no single agreed definition of the rule of law. However, there is a basic core definition that has near universal acceptance. As Emeritus Professor Geoffrey Walker, has written in his defining work on the rule of law in Australia:

    ‘…most of the content of the rule of law can be summed up in two points: (1) that the people (including, one should add, the government) should be ruled by the law and obey it and (2) that the law should be such that people will be able (and, one should add, willing) to be guided by it.’
    – Geoffrey de Q. Walker, The rule of law: foundation of constitutional democracy, (1st Ed., 1988).

    Note the inclusion of “the government” in this definition.

    The Hon Kevin Lindgren AM QC has produced a report titled “The Rule of Law: Its State of Health in Australia”. A copy of this report can be found here.

    The Rule of Law Institute of Australia

    The Rule of Law Institute of Australia (RoLIA) is an independent, politically non-partisan, not-for-profit body formed to uphold the rule of law in Australia. RoLIA aims to promote discussion on the importance of the principles which underpin the rule of law. It was founded in 2009 and is incorporated under the Associations Incorporation Act 2009 (NSW).

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    This tab updated on 19 March 2015