The constitutional conventions and constitutional change: Making sense of multiple intentions

University of Adelaide
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Adelaide Law Review, 2017, 38 pp. 49 - 85
Issue Date:
Full metadata record
The delegates to the 1890s Constitutional Conventions were well aware that the amendment mechanism is the ‘most important part of a Constitution’, for on it ‘depends the question as to whether the state shall develop with peaceful continuity or shall suffer alternations of stagnation, retrogression, and revolution’. However, with only 8 of 44 proposed amendments passed in the 116 years since Federation, many commentators have questioned whether the compromises struck by the delegates are working as intended, and others have offered proposals to amend the amending provision. This paper adds to this literature by examining in detail the evolution of s 128 of the Constitution — both during the drafting and beyond. This analysis illustrates that s 128 is caught between three competing ideologies: representative and responsible government, popular democracy, and federalism. Understanding these multiple intentions and the delicate compromises struck by the delegates reveals the origins of s 128, facilitates a broader understanding of colonial politics and federation history, and is relevant to understanding the history of referenda as well as considerations for the section’s reform.
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