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Originally published by
Australian Government Publishing Service
Canberra August 1988
Typeset & Printed in Australia by Pirie Printers Sales Pty Ltd
Fyshwick, ACT.

Original Copyright Notice:
© Commonwealth of Australia 1988
ISBN 0 644 06918 X
Material in this booklet may be reproduced provided that the source is duly acknowledged.

This World Wide Web adaptation of the Constitutional Commission’s Final Report aims to faithfully reproduce the content of the original booklet, while making use of the new possibilities offered by the hypertext medium. This introductory web page brings together the Contents, Index, details of Members of the Commission and the Advisory Committees, the Terms of Reference, and the Introduction. The twelve chapters of the Summary containing the Commission’s recommendations are contained in separate web pages linked to the Contents and the Index.


Members of the Constitutional Commission vi
Terms of Reference vii
Introduction  1

Preamble and covering clauses  2
Preamble to the Constitution  2
Enacting clause  2
Covering clauses  2
The Parliaments and democratic rights  4
Meetings of Parliaments  4
Composition of the Federal Parliament  4
   The nexus  4
   Representation of Territories  5
   Representation of new States  6
The terms of Federal Parliament and disagreements between the Houses  7
   Four year maximum term  7
   Three year minimum term  7
   Powers of the Houses over money Bills  9
   Disagreement between the Houses on non-money Bills  9
   Terms of senators from States 11
   Terms of senators from Territories 12
   Casual vacancies in the Senate 12
Simultaneous federal and State elections 13
Parliamentary privileges 13
Qualifications and disqualifications of members of Federal Parliament 14
The right to vote 15
One vote one value 16
Direct elections 16
Enforcement of democratic rights 16
The Executive Government of the Commonwealth 17
Head of State 17
Reservation of Bills and disallowance of Federal Acts 17
The Governor-General 18
   Appointment and terms of office of the Governor-General 18
   Powers assigned to the Governor-General under section 2 19
   Exercise of powers on Ministerial advice 19
   The command in chief of the Defence Force 20
   Deputies to the Governor-General 21
Ministers and the Federal Executive Council 21
The Parliament and the Executive 22
The Australian judicial system 25
The structure of the Australian judicial system 25
The High Court and federal jurisdiction 25
The separation of judicial power 27
Appointment and removal of judges 27
Advisory jurisdiction 29
Right to proceed against the Commonwealth or a State 29

New States 30

Constitutional Recognition of Local Government 32
Effects of constitutional recognition 33
Rights and freedoms 34
Trial by jury 34
Property rights 36
Freedom of religion 37
Discrimination against out-of-State residents 38
A new Chapter for the Constitution 39
   Effect of constitutional recognition 42
   Form of guarantees 42
   Criteria for selection 42
   A power to opt-out? 43
A federal human rights power? 44
Distribution of powers 45
General principles 45
Communications 45
Defamation 46
Nuclear materials 47
Admiralty and maritime matters 48
Intellectual property 48
Family law 48
   Unmarried couples: property and financial rights 50
   Third party property, family inheritance and child welfare 51
Social welfare 51
National accident compensation 52
Service and execution of process 52
Full faith and credit: conflict of laws 53
People of any race: Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders 54
   The race power 54
   Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders 55
   Constitutional backing for an agreement with Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders 55
External affairs 56
Citizenship 60
Succession to the Throne and regency 60
Other possible powers 60
Commonwealth places 61
Inter-change of powers 62
The national economy 63
Introduction 63
Constitutional bases for economic policy 63
Trade and commerce 64
   Alternative recommendation: labelling, packaging and standards 66
   Alternative recommendation: civil aviation, navigation and shipping 66
Companies and financial markets 66
Industrial relations 67
Freedom of interstate trade 69
Regional preference 70
Federal and State taxing powers 70
   Federal taxation power 70
   Excise duties 70
   Taxation of government property 72
   Inter-governmental financial relations 72
Appropriation of revenue 72
Financial assistance to the States 73
Inter-State Commission 73

Interstate river management 74

Altering the Constitution 75

Expended provisions 78

Members of the Advisory Committees 79

Index 80


Sir Maurice Byers, CBE, QC
former Solicitor-General for the Commonwealth (Chairman)

Professor Enid Campbell, OBE
Faculty of Law
Monash University

Hon Sir Rupert Hamer, KCMG
former Premier of Victoria

Hon E G Whitlam, AC, QC
former Prime Minister

Professor Leslie Zines
Faculty of Law
Australian National University

The Hon Mr Justice Toohey, AC, then a judge of the Federal Court of Australia, was a member of the Commission until 31 December 1986 when he resigned in view of his appointment as a Justice of the High Court of Australia.


   Australian Judicial System

Hon Mr Justice D F Jackson (Chairman)
Professor James Crawford
Hon Mr Justice W M C Gummow
Mr Roger Jennings, QC
Hon Mr Justice G A Kennedy
Hon Mr Justice R McGarvie

Distribution of Powers

Hon Sir John Moore, AC (Chairman)
Dr Breen Creighton
Hon Donald Dunstan, AC, QC
Hon Jack Ferguson, AO
Mr Geoff Lindell
Mr Paul Munro
    (resigned 30 June 1986)
Mr George Polites, AC, CMG, MBE
Hon Haddon Storey, QC, MLC

Executive Government

Rt Hon Sir Zelman Cowen, AK, GCMC, GCVO, K St J, QC (Chairman)
Hon Kim Beazley, AO
(resigned 10 August 1986)
Professor Donald Home, AC
Ms Susan Kenny
Hon Sir James Killen, KCMG
Mr David Solomon
Hon John Wheeldon
Associate Professor George Winterton

Individual and Democratic Rights

Mr Terence Purcell (Chairman)
Mr A R Castan, QC
Mr Russell Clarke
Ms Rhonda Galbally
Mr Peter Garrett
Mr Thomas Keneally, AO, FRSL
Dr Paolo Totaro, AM
Professor Eric Willmot, AM

Trade and National Economic Management

Hon Mr Justice M G Everett (Chairman)
Mr Bob Bakewell
Mr Mark Burrows
Associate Professor Michael Coper
Hon Dr Rex Patterson
Alderman H G Percival, OBE, MLC
Ms Phillipa Smith


To inquire into and report, on or before 30 June 1988, on the revision of the Australian Constitution to:
(a) adequately reflect Australia’s status as an independent nation and a Federal Parliamentary democracy;
(b) provide the most suitable framework for the economic, social and political development of Australia as a federation;
(c) recognise an appropriate division of responsibilities between the Commonwealth, the States, self-governing Territories and local government; and
(d) ensure that democratic rights are guaranteed.
For the purpose of conducting hearings, three members of the Commission shall be sufficient to constitute a quorum. Where there is a division of opinion within the Commission the majority opinion shall prevail but if the Commission is equally divided, the opinion of the Chairman shall prevail. During the course of the inquiry, the Commission shall:
(i) seek the views of the public, and business, trade unions and financial institutions;
(ii) hold public hearings and sponsor public meetings to ascertain the views of interested organisations, groups and individuals on constitutional reform;
(iii) stimulate public discussion and awareness of constitutional issues by circulating draft proposals and putting forward initiatives and views on constitutional reform;
(iv) make interim reports on matters under study at intervals to be determined in consultation with the Attorney-General; and
(v) consult with, and evaluate the reports and recommendations of, advisory committees which are established to examine specific subject areas of constitutional reform.


This booklet summarises the recommendations made in the Constitutional Commission’s Final Report. It includes the material which was contained in the booklet which summarised the First Report of May 1988.

The Constitutional Commission has been reviewing the Australian Constitution since early 1986. From the outset it has been our clear intention not to propose an entirely new Constitution. We have sought to ensure that any proposals for change would preserve the framework and principles contained in the Constitution. In particular, we have been conscious of the need to retain in form and spirit the general framework of government in Australia, Parliamentary government and democratic institutions.

There are some significant problems with the Constitution. Our recommendations seek to overcome those problems and improve the Constitution. Our Terms of Reference required us to involve the public in our review. We did that, and the response was impressive. More than four thousand submissions have been received by us and the Advisory Committees.

We have been greatly assisted by the work of our five Advisory Committees, which reported in mid-1987. Their members are listed at page 79 of this booklet. The Committees looked at: the Australian Judicial System, Distribution of Powers, Executive Government, Individual and Democratic Rights, and Trade and National Economic Management. Their proposals were widely publicised, and we received a good response to them. We took that response into account in deciding what .to recommend.

We have also benefited greatly from the work done by previous reviews of the Constitution. There were six Conventions on the Constitution between 1973 and 1987. These produced much valuable material, as well as numerous recommendations for constitutional alteration. The Conventions were made up of politicians from all major political parties and from Australia’s three spheres of government.

The work of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Review, which reported in 1959, and the Royal Commission on the Constitution, which reported in 1929, have also been of great use in our review.


Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders 54-56
Accident compensation and rehabilitation 52
Admiralty and maritime matters 26, 48
Adoption 48, 50
Advisory Committees — membership 79
Altering the Constitution 75-77
Appropriations power 9, 19, 72
Arbitrary arrest (see Liberty of the person)
Assistant Ministers — appointment 21-22
Banking 64, 68
Casual vacancies in the Senate (see Parliaments)
Children (see Family law)
Citizens’ initiative 75
Citizenship 14, 60
Civil aviation 66
Command in chief of the Defence Force (see Governor-General)
Commonwealth places 61, 62
Communications 45-46
Companies and financial markets 46, 66-67
Constitutional Commission —membership and terms of reference vi, vii
Corporations (see Companies and financial markets)
Courts — integration 25
Covering clauses 2-3
Cross-vesting of jurisdiction 25
Defamation 46-47
Democratic rights and Parliamentary elections (See Direct elections, Enforcement of democratic rights, One vote one value and Right to vote)
Direct elections 16
Discrimination against out-of-State residents 34, 38
Double jeopardy 41
Enacting clause 2
Electors’ initiative 75
Enforcement of democratic rights 16
Environment 60
Equality rights (see Rights and freedoms)
Excise duties 70-71
Executive power 22-24, 37
Expended provisions 69, 76, 78
External affairs power 46, 49, 56-59, 64
Family law 48-51
Family rights 43
Federal Executive Council 19, 20, 21-22
Federal human rights power 44
Financial assistance to the States 73
Fiscal and monetary policy of Federal Parliament 63-64
Fisheries 61
Freedoms (see Rights and freedoms)
Freedom of interstate trade 69-70
Full faith and credit: conflict of laws 53-54
Governor-General 9, 11,13, 17-24, 28, 29, 56, 75
   Appointment, remuneration and terms of office 18
   Appointment of deputies 21
   Command in chief of the Defence Force 20
   Exercise of powers on Ministerial advice 9, 18, 19-22
   Reservation and disallowance 17-18
   Reserve powers 22-24
Head of State 17
High Court 15, 23, 24, 25-29, 35, 38, 45, 59, 61, 68, 69, 70, 76
Human rights power (see Federal human rights power)
Incidental power 23-24, 46
Inconsistency of federal and State laws 45
Industry policy of Federal Parliament 64
Industrial relations 67-69
Intellectual property 48
Inter-change of powers 62
Inter-governmental financial relations 72
International treaties (see External affairs power)
Inter-State Commission 26, 27, 70, 73
Interstate river management 74
Interstate trade (see Freedom of interstate trade)
Judges and magistrates — appointment, tenure and removal 23, 27
Judicial Tribunal 27-28
Labelling, packaging and standards 65, 66
Liberty of the person 40
Local Government 32-33
Meetings of Parliaments 4
Membership of Constitutional Commission and Advisory Committees vi, 79
Ministers 21-22
Monarchy 17
Money Bills 8, 9, 11
National accident compensation 52
National crime 61
National works 60
Navigation 66, 74
New States — creation and representation
6-7, 30-31
Non-money Bills 9-11
Nuclear materials 47-48
One vote one value 16
Parliamentary privileges (see Parliaments)
Parliamentary terms (see Parliaments)
Parliaments 4-16
   Casual vacancies in the Senate 12-13
   Composition of the Federal Parliament 4-7
   Direct elections and enforcement of democratic rights 16
   Meetings of Parliament 4
   Nexus 4-5
   Parliamentary privileges 13
   Disagreements between the Senate and the House of    Representatives 9-11
   Right to vote and one vote one value 15-16
   Simultaneous elections 13
   Terms of the Federal Parliament 7-8
   Terms of senators from States and Territories 11-12
Preamble 2
Preservation of existing rights (see Rights and freedoms)
Presumption of innocence 41
Prices and incomes policy 64
Prime Minister 18, 19, 21-22
Privacy 43
Property rights 34, 36, 43, 48, 50-51
Qualifications and disqualifications of members of Federal Parliament 14-15
Queen 2, 3, 17-21, 56
Race power (see also Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders)
Ratification of proposals to alter the Constitution 75-76
Referendums (see Altering the Constitution)
Regional preference 70
Registration and qualifications of trades and professions 60
Representation of new States and Territories 5-7
Reserve powers (see Governor-General)
Retrospective offences 42
Right to vote 15-16
Rights and freedoms 34-44
   Equality rights 40
   Form of guarantees and criteria for selection 42-43
   Freedom from cruel or inhuman punishment 40
   Freedom of conscience, thought, belief and opinion 39
   Freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association 39
   Freedom of movement 40
   Freedom of religion 34, 37-38, 39
   Power to opt-out 43
   Remedies, justified limits and preservation of existing rights 39
   Rights of persons arrested and charged 41
Scientific and industrial research 61
Search and seizure 40
Securities and futures industries 67
Self incrimination 41
Senate (see Parliaments)
Service and execution of process 52-53
Shipping 48, 66, 74
Simultaneous elections (see Parliaments)
Social welfare 51
State Parliaments (see Parliaments)
States’ initiative 75
Succession to the Throne and regency 60
Supply (see Money Bills)
Taxation — federal and State power 70-72
Terms of reference vii, 1, 13, 14, 69
Territorial legislatures — meetings 4
Territories — representation 12
Trade and commerce power 46, 64-66, 73, 74
Treaties Council (see External affairs power)
Trial by jury 34-35

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Last updated: 2 December 2004