December 12, 2019

Twomey on An Analysis of Pitt Cobbett's Portrait of Australia's Constitution from 1788 to 1919 @SydneyLawSchool

Anne Twomey, University of Sydney Law School, has published An Analysis of Pitt Cobbett's Portrait of Australia's Constitution from 1788 to 1919, in William Pitt Cobbett, The Constitution and Government of Australia, 1788 to 1919 (Anne Twomey, ed. The Federation Press, Sydney, 2019). Here is the abstract.
William Pitt Cobbett was Dean of the Sydney Law School from 1890 to 1910, throughout the period when the Australian Constitution was drafted and first interpreted by the Griffith High Court. Upon retirement he devoted the rest of his life to writing a grand opus on the Constitution and government of Australia. It analysed the development of Australia's constitutional system from British settlement to the enactment of the federal Constitution and its early operation, viewing it as a social compact based upon constitutional implications. The manuscript was left unpublished because shortly after Cobbett's death the High Court took a significantly different approach to constitutional interpretation in the Engineers case. A century later Cobbett's "The Constitution and Government of Australia, 1788-1919" has now been published by The Federation Press. It is an historic work of great importance to those looking to discern how constitutional provisions were originally believed to operate. This paper identifies and analyses the most important aspects of Cobbett's work, pointing out where he was prescient, what is surprising, what is dated and how Cobbett's voice still resonates today. It addresses a range of issues including: federalism, the separation of powers, executive government, defence, external affairs, race issues, the Senate's powers, vice-regal powers, elections and the Court of Disputed Returns.
Download the essay from SSRN at the link.

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