Unit description

Studies how the law makes public decision-makers accountable for how they exercise their discretions, powers, and duties. Various control mechanisms - particularly courts, merits appeals tribunals, Ombudsman, Freedom of Information (FoI) and privacy legislation at Commonwealth level - aim at curbing bureaucratic mistakes and excesses, and at ensuring sound, rational, and consistent decision-making by governments.

Unit content

Topic 1: Introduction: The framework of Australian administrative law

  • History
  • The prerogative writs
  • The New Administrative Law reforms
  • Discretions vs rules

Topic 2: Introduction to judicial review

  • Merits versus legality/ procedure
  • Facts versus law versus merits
  • The constitutional separation of powers
  • Public versus private decision-makers
  • What decisions are reviewable under the AD(JR) Act 1977?

Topic 3: Natural justice (procedural fairness)

  • When is it required?
  • The hearing rule
  • The rule against bias
  • Legitimate expectation
  • Private (domestic) bodies

Topic 4: Statutory authorisation for decisions

  • Statutory interpretation and “state of mind” clauses
  • Jurisdictional facts
  • Mandatory/ invalidatory legislative clauses
  • Unauthorised purposes/ motives
  • (Ir)relevant considerations
  • Bad faith

Topic 5: Fettering discretion

  • Ministerial/ Cabinet policy
  • Following a policy inflexibly
  • Acting under dictation
  • Estoppel by previous promises
  • Contracts

Topic 6: At the outer boundary of "legality versus merits"

  • Unreasonableness
  • No evidence

Topic 7: Subordinate (delegated) legislation

  • Role of subordinate (delegated) legislation
  • Legal constraints
  • Publication
  • Disallowance

Topic 8: Merits appeals tribunals

  • The Administrative Appeals Tribunal and other tribunals
  • Powers and functions
  • Interaction with judicial review

Topic 9: Standing for judicial review and merits appeals

  • Rationales for standing (locus standi) as a threshold
  • Common law tests for judicial review
  • Statutory tests for judicial review
  • Statutory tests for merits appeals
  • Proposals for open standing

Topic 10: Judicial responses to unlawful government action

  • Consequences of unlawfulness: void vs voidable
  • Remedies
  • Discretion to withhold or postpone a remedy
  • Failure to carry out a legal duty
  • Ouster clauses
  • Constitutional writs

Topic 11: Access to information

  • Right to reasons
  • Freedom of information
  • Privacy laws

Topic 12: Other methods of governmental accountability

  • Ombudsman
  • Human rights legislation and anti-discrimination laws
  • Alternative dispute resolution

Learning outcomes

Unit Learning Outcomes express learning achievement in terms of what a student should know, understand and be able to do on completion of a unit. These outcomes are aligned with the graduate attributes. The unit learning outcomes and graduate attributes are also the basis of evaluating prior learning.

Learning outcomes and graduate attributes

Prescribed texts

Session 2

  • Creyke, Robin, McMillan, John & Smyth, Mark, 2015, Control of Government Action: Text, Cases & Commentary ["CM&S"], 4th edn, Butterworths/LexisNexis, Chatswood, NSW. ISBN: 9780409339352 .
Prescribed texts may change in future study periods.

Teaching and assessment

Gold Coast

Teaching method
Lecture online 110 minutes (12 weeks)
Tutorial on-site 50 minutes (12 weeks)
Exam: open book50%


Teaching method
Lecture online 110 minutes (12 weeks)
Tutorial on-site 50 minutes (12 weeks)
Exam: open book50%


Teaching method
Lecture online 110 minutes (12 weeks)
Tutorial online 50 minutes (12 weeks)
Exam: open book50%

Intensive offerings may or may not be scheduled in every session. Please refer to the timetable for further details.

Southern Cross University employs different teaching methods within units to provide students with the flexibility to choose the mode of learning that best suits them. SCU academics strive to use the latest approaches and, as a result, the learning modes and materials may change. The most current information regarding a unit will be provided to enrolled students at the beginning of the study session.

Fee information


Commonwealth Supported courses
For information regarding Student Contribution Amounts please visit the Student Contribution Amounts.
Commencing 2017 Commonwealth Supported only. Student contribution band: 3

Fee paying courses
For POSTGRADUATE or UNDERGRADUATE full fee paying courses please check Domestic Postgraduate Fees OR Domestic Undergraduate Fees


Please check the international course and fee list to determine the relevant fees.