The case of Kable raised constitutional questions in which the High Court had to consider whether the Community Protection Act 1994 (NSW) required a court to exercise non-judicial power in breach of the doctrine of separation of powers.  The High Court also had to consider whether this NSW Act gave a State court power which was incompatible with Chapter III of the Australian Constitution.

The rule of law assumes effective legal constraints on the exercise of power.  In the case of Kable, the Australian Constitution and the independence of the judiciary had to be examined against the background of the Australian federal system.

Reflections for the 20th Anniversary of Kable article can be found here.

In the words of former Federal Court of Australia Judge Kevin Lindgren,

“The rule of law implies effective legal constraints on the exercise of power”.

In the paper below, Lindgren J refers to the key case of Kable v DPP (NSW) and outlines the legal basis upon which the High Court was able to invalidate the NSW legislation which appeared to be specifically designed to confer non-judicial functions to a court and be directed against a single person alone.

Download the Paper (PDF)

Kable’s Case and the Rule of Law

The Hon Kevin Lindgren AM QC

Formerly a judge of the Federal Court of Australia*

* I am indebted to Nick Clark of the Rule of Law Institute of Australia for research assistance. This piece will be published by LexisNexis in a forthcoming book, Cases that Changed our Lives.


The decision of the High Court of Australia in Kable v Director of Public Prosecutions (NSW) (1996) 189 CLR 51; 138 ALR 577; [1996] HCA 24 (Kable) has marked the beginning of an ongoing development in Australian constitutional law, with rule of law implications.

The rule of law implies effective legal constraints on the exercise of power, including power derived from the operation of democratic processes. In the case of present concern, the law in question is that founded in the Australian Constitution, and the power in question is that of the democratically elected legislatures and governments of the Australian States.

The Australian federation

The importance of Kable can be understood only against the background of the Australian federal system.

The Commonwealth of Australia came into existence on 1 January 1901 as a federation of six States (previously called “Colonies”). (Later, two mainland Territories were established upon being “carved out of” the territorial areas of certain States, but for present purposes I need say no more of their special position in the federation.)

The Commonwealth Constitution (henceforth, simply the Constitution) is found in s 9 in the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900, which is an act of the United Kingdom Parliament.

The States have their own Constitution Acts, which are simply Acts of the Parliaments of the States. The State Constitutions can be amended by the State legislatures.

The constitutional positions of the States are subject to the Constitution. It follows that a State Parliament cannot make a law, the power to make which is vested by the Constitution exclusively in the Commonwealth Parliament. Moreover, in the case of concurrent legislative powers possessed by the Commonwealth Parliament and the State Parliaments, a State Act enacted within the power of the State Parliament will be invalid to the extent of any inconsistency with a Commonwealth Act enacted within the power of the Commonwealth Parliament: s 109 of the Constitution.

A particular difference between the Commonwealth and the States that is important for our present purposes is that while a strict separation of powers (legislative, executive and judicial) is mandated in the Commonwealth sphere by the Constitution (see ss 1, 61 and 71 of the Constitution), it is not mandated in the State sphere, either by the Constitution or by the respective State constitutions. In the case of the States, the doctrine of the separation of powers is an ideal which may be observed as a matter of convention, but it is not constitutionally required. Accordingly, a State Parliament can, for example, make a law giving administrative functions and powers to the State’s courts, and judicial functions and powers to the State’s administrative bodies. The Constitution prevents the Commonwealth Parliament from doing this in relation to federal courts and federal administrative bodies.

The retirement age of State judges can be changed from time to time by the State Parliaments and are not identical as between the States, but the retirement age of all federal judges (High Court and all courts created by the Commonwealth Parliament) is fixed by s 72 of the Constitution (at 70 years); while the use of Acting Judges is possible in the State courts, under ss 71 and 72 of the Constitution the judicial power of the Commonwealth can be vested in the High Court of Australia (which is created by the Constitution itself) and in other federal courts created by the Commonwealth Parliament, all of whose Justices have, as noted earlier, a retirement age of 70 years under the Constitution.

But, importantly for present purposes, s 71 of the Constitution also allows the Commonwealth Parliament to vest the judicial power of the Commonwealth in “such other courts as it invests with federal jurisdiction.” Consistently with this provision, s 77(iii) of the Constitution provides that the Commonwealth Parliament may make laws investing any court of a State with federal jurisdiction, for example, jurisdiction arising under any law made by that Parliament.

It follows that the Commonwealth Parliament can vest the judicial power of the Commonwealth in the courts of the States, even though the strict doctrine of the separation of powers that operates in relation to federal courts does not apply in the State sphere.

Kable’s Case and Preventive Detention

Gregory Wayne Kable was convicted of the manslaughter of his wife and was sentenced to imprisonment for a minimum term of four years, with an additional term of one year and four months. He had been charged with murder, but the Crown accepted his plea of diminished responsibility.
During his imprisonment, Kable sent threatening letters to his late wife’s relatives. The authorities were concerned over what he might do to those relatives after his release. (At the time of Kable’s application referred to below, he was in custody on 17 charges arising from the sending of the letters.)

The Community Protection Act 1994 (NSW) (the CPA) was passed before Kable’s release. It had a precedent in the Community Protection Act 1990 (Vic). The object of the CPA was stated to be the protection of the community. Originally, the bill for the CPA was expressed to be of general application, but in the course of its progress through the New South Wales Parliament it was limited to apply to Kable alone.

The CPA provided in s 5 (1) for the making by the Supreme Court of New South Wales of an order that a person be detained in prison for a specified period, not exceeding six months, if the Court was satisfied (a) that the person was more likely than not to commit “a serious act of violence”; and (b) that it was appropriate, for the protection of a particular person or particular persons or the community generally, that the person be held in custody.

A “serious act of violence” was defined in s 4 to mean an act of violence committed by one person against another, that had a real likelihood of causing the other person death or serious injury, or that involved sexual assault in the nature of certain offences under the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). An order might be made, whether or not the person was already in lawful custody as a detainee or otherwise.

More than one application might be made under s 5 in relation to the same person. Thus, it was possible for a succession of orders to be made so that a person might be detained for a succession of six-month periods.

Only the Director of Public Prosecutions could apply to the Supreme Court for an order. However, the standard of proof was the civil “balance of probabilities” standard, not the criminal “beyond all reasonable doubt” standard.

As noted earlier, the CPA as passed applied to Kable alone. This restriction on its operation was achieved through s 3 which provided that the CPA authorised the making of a detention order against Kable alone and not against any other person. This was odd, since the CPA’s other provisions remained expressed in general terms; for example, the provision noted above that s 5 applied whether the person was already in lawful custody or not (Kable was), and a provision in s 10 that prohibited the making of an order against a person who was under the age of 16 years (Kable was older).

The New South Wales Director of Public Prosecutions applied under the Act for a detention order against Kable, and a Judge ordered that he be detained in prison for six months. Kable appealed to the New South Wales Court of Appeal which dismissed his appeal. With special leave he appealed to the High Court.

The High Court held (4:2) that the CPA was invalid. The four justices in the majority gave independent reasons for reaching that conclusion, and their reasons do not all speak with the one voice. In a much later case, Assistant Commissioner Condon v Pompano Pty Ltd (2013) 295 ALR 638; 87 ALJR 458; [2013] HCA 7 (Pompano), four members of the High Court noted, in a joint judgment (at [129]), that the vice of the CPA had been the “conscripting” of the Supreme Court of New South Wales to procure Kable’s imprisonment by a process which departed in serious respects from the usual judicial process. In Pompano, their Honours emphasised that in Kable it was the whole of the CPA and all of its features that had been fatal to its validity. In addition to the feature of the balance of probabilities standard of proof, their Honours noted the further features that the CPA provided for the Supreme Court to have regard to material that would not have been admissible into evidence in accordance with the rules of evidence, and that the procedure did not involve the resolution of a dispute between contesting parties as to their respective legal rights and obligations.

In Kable, Gummow J noted that two provisions within Chapter III (headed “The Judicature”) of the Constitution expressly touched on the position of the State courts. The background to His Honour’s observations is that, as noted earlier, the existence of the High Court is provided for in the Constitution itself; other “federal courts” are courts created by the Commonwealth Parliament; and yet other courts are the State courts. The two provisions of the Constitution to which Gummow J referred are s 73 (ii) which invests the High Court with jurisdiction to hear and determine appeals from all judgments, decrees, orders and sentences of, relevantly, the Supreme Court of any State, and s 77 (iii) which empowers the Commonwealth Parliament to make laws investing any court of a State (including, obviously, a State’s Supreme Court) with federal jurisdiction.

The concept that has taken root since and as a result of Kable, is that the Constitution assumes, indeed provides for, an integrated Australian system of courts of which the State Supreme Courts form an essential part, with the result that it is inconsistent with Chapter III of the Constitution, and therefore impermissible, for their institutional integrity as “courts” to be impaired by State legislation.

In this way the Constitution is held to constrain the exercise of State legislative power – an illustration of the rule of law in operation.


Cases on Preventive Detention Since Kable

Legislation having some similarity to the CPA arose for consideration in Fardon v Attorney-General for the State of Queensland (2004) 223 CLR 575; 210 ALR 50; 78 ALJR 1519; [2004] HCA 46 (Fardon).

In Fardon, however, a constitutional challenge to the validity of Queensland’s Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act 2003 (DPSOA) failed.

Section 3 of the DPSOA provided that its objects were:
to provide (for the Supreme Court of Queensland to make orders) for (i) the continued detention in custody, or (ii) the supervised release, of a particular class of prisoner, in order to ensure adequate protection of the community; and
to provide continuing control, care and management of prisoners of a particular class in order to facilitate their rehabilitation.

Section 5 of the DPSOA empowered the Queensland Attorney-General to apply to the Supreme Court of Queensland for an order in relation to a person detained in custody who was serving a period of imprisonment for a “serious sexual offence”. The application had to be made during the last six months of that period of imprisonment. A “serious sexual offence” was defined as “an offence of a sexual nature…(a) involving violence; or (b) against children” (s 2, Dictionary in Schedule).

For the purpose of making an order, the Supreme Court of Queensland had to be satisfied that the prisoner was a “serious danger to the community”: s 13(1). This was defined to mean that there was an unacceptable risk that the prisoner would commit a serious sexual offence if released or released without a supervision order: s 13(2).

“Satisfied” was defined so as to require that the Supreme Court be “satisfied (a) by acceptable, cogent evidence; and (b) to a high degree of probability; that the evidence [was] of sufficient weight to justify the decision”: s 13(3).

Section 17 of the DPSOA required the Court to give detailed reasons for the making of an order (whether a continued detention order or a supervised release order) at the time when the order was made.

Part III of the DPSOA provided for annual or other reviews of continuing detention orders, and Part IV provided for appeals to the Queensland Court of Appeal against decisions made by primary Judges under the DPSOA.

On 30 June 1989, Fardon had been convicted of rape, sodomy and assault and sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment. Shortly before that period was due to expire on 30 June 2003, the DPSOA came into force (on 6 June 2003). The Supreme Court of Queensland made successive interim continued detention orders (s 8 of the SPSOA provided for the making of interim orders), the first on 27 June 2003. Ultimately, on 6 November 2003 the Court ordered under s 13 of the DPSOA that Fardon be detained in custody for an indefinite term for control, care and rehabilitation.

Fardon appealed to the Queensland Court of Appeal, and the question of the constitutional validity of s 13 was removed to the High Court of Australia.

The High Court held (6:1) that s 13 of the DPSOA was valid, distinguishing Kable.

The headnote to the report of Fardon in the Commonwealth Law Reports (at p576) neatly summarises the holding of the majority:

“…the [DPSOA] was valid as it did not impair the institutional integrity of the Supreme Court of Queensland in such a fashion as to be incompatible with the Court’s constitutional position as a potential repository of federal power.”

The reference to the Supreme Court as “a potential repository of federal power” was a reference to ss 71 and 77(iii) of the Constitution, referred to earlier.

It will be noted that under the DPSOA, an order could be made only against persons who had been convicted, in accordance with the criminal law processes and protections, of serious criminal offences; that the Court was required to give detailed reasons for its decision; that there was a right of appeal; and that a prisoner’s continued detention had to be reviewed annually.

Moreover, Gleeson CJ noted that, unlike the CPA of New South Wales that had been invalidated in Kable, the DPSOA was an Act of general application and not an ad hominem measure; that the DPSOA conferred a wide discretion on the Supreme Court as to whether an order should be made, and, if so, the kind of order to be made; and that under the DPSOA the rules of evidence applied.

Chief Justice Gleeson also observed that the discretion was to be exercised by reference to the criterion of serious danger to the community; that hearings were in public; and that there was a right of appeal.

The Chief Justice concluded that the DPSOA was not incompatible with, or repugnant to, or an impairment of, the institutional integrity of the Supreme Court of Queensland as a potential repository of federal jurisdiction.

Thus, the DPSOA can be seen not to have trespassed on the rule of law either.

The formula “incompatible with” or “repugnant to” the “institutional integrity” of the State courts was to gain considerable currency in this area of discourse in Australian constitutional law.

Subsequently, and taking advantage of judicial statements made in Fardon, the New South Wales Parliament passed the Crimes (Serious Sex Offenders) Act 2006, and the Victorian Parliament passed the Serious Sex Offenders (Detention and Supervision) Act 2009, in each case modelled on the DPSOA of Queensland.

(By the Crimes (Serious Sex Offenders) Amendment Act 2013, the name of the New South Wales Act was changed to the Crimes (High Risk Offenders) Act 2006, and the reach of the Act was extended to apply to “serious violence offences” as well as to “serious sex offences”.)

Unfortunately, a new government in Queensland was not satisfied to leave matters with the upholding by the High Court of the DPSOA. The Queensland Parliament passed the Criminal Law Amendment (Public Interest Declarations) Act 2013 (the Declarations Act). Sections 3 and 6 of the Declarations Act purported to amend the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1945 (Qld). Shortly, those sections gave the executive government power to achieve, in what it perceived to be the public interest, detention of an individual in respect of whom the Supreme Court had already made either an order for continuing detention or a supervision order under the DPSOA, any appeal against which had been finally dealt with or the time for appealing against which had expired.

The means adopted was the making of a declaration by the Governor in Council on the recommendation of the Minister (the Attorney General). The recommendation was simply that it was “in the public interest” that the person be detained. The individual did not have to be given prior notice of the proposed recommendation (meaning, apparently, of the Minister’s intention to consider making it) (s 22 (2)). The individual did, however, have to be given at least 14 days’ written notice of the Minister’s intention to make the recommendation before it was actually made, and of the grounds, and given an opportunity to make written submissions within 10 days about why the declaration should not be made (s 22 (3)). However, the Minister was empowered to make the recommendation without complying with that requirement if he or she considered this necessary “because of urgent circumstances” (s 22 (4)).

The Declarations Act provided for two psychiatrists to examine the detained person annually and to report to the Minister. The Minister could recommend that the continued detention declaration cease and the Governor in Council could make a declaration accordingly.

Apart from review by the Supreme Court for jurisdictional error, the various decisions of the Minister and of the Governor in Council were final and conclusive and could not be challenged (s 22K (1)-(3)).

Importantly, once a continued detention declaration was made, the DPSOA no longer applied to the person; the person must no longer be detained or be subject to supervised release under the DPSOA; the Declarations Act operated in relation to the person despite any other Act; the person must be detained in an institution; and, generally speaking, the person was a “prisoner” for the purposes of the Corrective Services Act 2006 (Qld).

In effect, once a public interest declaration was made by the Governor in Council, the Court’s antecedent order under the DPSOA was a spent force, and the Declarations Act regime applied to the individual to the exclusion of the DPSOA regime.

It will be recalled that the reason why the High Court upheld the validity of the DPSOA was that it contained familiar criminal law safeguards for the individual, which meant that the institutional integrity of the Supreme Court was not impugned. The Declarations Act took the making by the Supreme Court of a continued detention order or a supervision order under the DPSOA as a “springboard” or “platform” from which the executive government of the State could make a public interest declaration, without any of those safeguards.

The constitutional validity of this regime was challenged on Kable grounds in Attorney-General (Qld) v Lawrence (2013) 306 ALR 281; [2013] QCA 364 (Lawrence) (and the associated case, Attorney-General (Qld) v Fardon (2013) 306 ALR 300; [2013] QCA 365). The Queensland Court of Appeal held unanimously that ss 3 and 6 of the Declarations Act were invalid.

In a joint judgment, the three members of the Court of Appeal who sat held that those sections had the effect of undermining all orders made by the Supreme Court under the DPSOA, causing them to be “regarded as provisional, their effect…being contingent upon the executive subsequently deciding on a case by case basis not to exercise its power to nullify the effect of the orders” (at [41]). The power of the executive to nullify orders of the Supreme Court was seen to be analogous to the power of an appellate court to set aside orders found to be in error, but was foreign to judicial power because of the political character of the criterion (the public interest) and the fact that the power was exercisable by a party (the Attorney-General) to the proceeding (under the DPSOA) in which the order had been made (at [35]).

The Court of Appeal’s formal holding was that ss 3 and 6 of the Declarations Act were invalid in that those sections would have the consequence that the DPSOA would require the Court to exercise powers repugnant to, or incompatible with, the institutional integrity of that Court, contrary to its function as a court that exercises judicial power under Chapter III of the Constitution.

Interestingly, however, the Court of Appeal held that the validity of the DPSOA itself remained intact. This was because, once it was recognised that ss 3 and 6 of the Declarations Act were invalid, they were no law at all, and therefore could not produce the result that the DPSOA required the Supreme Court to exercise powers having that repugnant or incompatible character.

Lawrence, like Kable, but unlike the intervening Fardon, shows the Constitution, as interpreted by the High Court, operating as a legal constraint on the exercise of State legislative power and is in this respect can be seen as an illustration of the acceptance of the rule of law.


Criminal Organisations Legislation

The State Parliaments have been concerned over the illegal activities of certain “bikie gangs”, and, in particular, illegal activities related to drugs, firearms and extortion.

Legislative schemes have been devised by various States by which, as a first step, a particular “criminal organisation” is identified, and, as a second step, various forms of association between its members is prohibited, with criminal law sanctions.

The first constitutional challenge to one of these legislative schemes arose in South Australia v Totani (2010) 242 CLR 1; 86 ALR 19; 201 A Crim R 11; 271 ALR 662; [2010] HCA 39 (Totani). The Act challenged was South Australia’s Serious and Organised Crime (Control) Act 2008 (the SOCCA).

Section 14 (1) of the SOCCA was held to be invalid by the application of the Kable principles, the decision in Fardon being distinguished (Lawrence had not been decided at the time of the decision in Totani).

Section 10(1) of the SOCCA empowered the South Australian Attorney General, on the application of the Commissioner of Police, to make a declaration in relation to an organisation if the Attorney General was satisfied that (a) its members associated for the purpose of organising, planning, facilitating, supporting or engaging in criminal activity; and (b) the organisation represented a risk to public safety and order in South Australia. Clearly, then, an organisation could be designated a “declared organisation” as a result of an act of the State executive without the protection of any court process.

Section 14(1) of the SOCCA provided that on the application of the Commissioner of Police, the Magistrates Court of South Australia must make a “control order” against an individual (the defendant) if that Court was satisfied that the defendant was a member of a declared organisation. A control order prohibited the defendant from associating with other members, and there were other restrictive effects of a control order. Disobedience of a control order was made an offence for which the maximum penalty was imprisonment for five years (s 22 (1)).

Under s 71 of the Constitution, the Commonwealth Parliament could invest the Magistrates Court of South Australia with federal jurisdiction (as at 2008, no fewer than 72 statutes of the Commonwealth Parliament had done so).

Under s 14(1) of the SOCCA, the Magistrates Court had to be satisfied of only one thing, namely, that the defendant was a member of a declared organisation. It was the Attorney General who was required to be satisfied antecedently of the two far more significant and complex matters, namely, that members of the organisation associated together for one or more of the purposes specified, and that the organisation represented a threat to public safety and order in South Australia.

On 14 May 2009 the Attorney General of South Australia, on the application of the Commissioner of the South Australia Police, made a declaration under s 10(1) in relation to the Finks Motorcycle Club. The Commissioner subsequently applied to the Magistrates Court under s 14(1) for control orders against two individuals, and a control order was made against one of them on 25 May 2009.

The full court of the Supreme Court of South Australia held that s 14(1) was invalid as a law of the State, and therefore that the control order that had been made was void and of no effect.

The High Court agreed (6:1) that s 14(1) was invalid, on the ground, according to five of the justices, that it authorised the executive to enlist the aid of the Magistrates Court to implement decisions of the executive in a manner that was incompatible with the proper discharge of that Court’s federal judicial responsibilities, and with its institutional integrity. The Chief Justice (one of the five) and Hayne J also gave as a reason that it was repugnant to the institutional integrity of the Magistrates Court, that s 14(1) permitted the executive to enlist the Magistrates Court to create new norms of behaviour for a particular member of an organisation, without regard to what the member had done or was likely to do.

New South Wales addressed the problem of criminal organisations in its Crimes (Criminal Organisations Control) Act 2009 (the CCOCA). In Wainohu v New South Wales (2011) 243 CLR 181; 85 ALJR 746; 278 ALR 1; [2013] HCA 24, Kable was again applied by the High Court with the result that the CCOCA was held to be invalid. That was on 23 June 2011, some 7 to 8 months after the High Court had applied Kable (on 11 November 2010) with invalidating effect in Totani.

The New South Wales Act was different from the South Australian one in certain respects. It gave the discretion to declare organisations, not to the Attorney General, but to “eligible judges” of the Supreme Court of New South Wales (not, it will be noted, to that Court itself). These were judges of that Court who had consented in writing to be eligible judges and had been declared by the Attorney General to be such.

An application to an eligible judge was to be made by the Commissioner of Police who was required, by public notice, to invite members of the organisation and others who might be affected by the outcome to make written submissions to the eligible judge.

Upon being satisfied of matters similar to those specified in South Australia’s SOCCA (criminal purpose, and risk to public safety and order), the eligible judge could declare an organisation to be a “declared organisation”.

However, the rules of evidence did not apply to the proceeding before the eligible judge, who was not required to provide reasons for the declaration or decision made.

The CCOCA of New South Wales empowered the Court (as distinct from eligible judges) to make “control orders” against members, former members and purported members of a declared organisation, who then became “controlled members”. Section 26 provided for the consequences for controlled members.

The High Court held (6:1) that by exempting eligible judges from any duty to give reasons, the COCCA was repugnant to, or incompatible with, the Supreme Court of New South Wales’s institutional integrity, and therefore incompatible with the discharge of a federal judicial function by that Court.

The COCCA of New South Wales was replaced by the Crimes (Criminal Organisations Control) Act 2012 (NSW).
Meanwhile, Queensland had passed a Criminal Organisation Act 2009. In Assistant Commissioner Condon v Pompano Pty Ltd (2013) 295 ALR 638; 87 ALJR 458; [2013] HCA 7, the High Court held that particular provisions of that Act that protected “criminal intelligence” relied on in support of an application under the Act, were not repugnant to the institutional integrity of the Supreme Court of Queensland, because that Court retained its capacity to act fairly and impartially (in that it retained the capacity to assess the cogency and the veracity of the evidence tendered).

The last Act to be noted is Queensland’s Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act 2013 ( the VLAD Act). The VLAD Act requires courts sentencing a “vicious lawless associate” for a “declared offence” to impose, in addition to the sentence for that offence under the criminal law apart from, and without regard to, the VLAD Act, a further sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment to be served wholly in a Corrective Services facility, and, if the vicious lawless associate was not only a member but also an office bearer of a “relevant association”, a further sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment to be so served cumulatively with the further sentence of 15 years mentioned – a total of a further 25 years on top of the sentence imposed for the offence itself.

A “declared offence” is defined in s 3 of the VLAD Act to be an offence against a provision mentioned in Schedule 1 to the Act or an offence prescribed under a regulation to be a declared offence. A person is a “vicious lawless associate” if the person commits a declared offence and at the time of doing so, is a participant in the affairs of a relevant association, and committed the declared offence for the purposes of, or in the course of participating in the affairs of, the relevant association (s 5(1)). A “relevant association” is an association that has as one of its purposes, the purpose of engaging in, or conspiring to engage in, declared offences, but the onus is placed on the individual to prove that the association in question is not one that has that as one of its purposes (s 5(2)).

Predictably, there has been a challenge to the constitutional validity of provisions of the VLAD Act on, inter alia, Kable grounds. The proceeding was launched in the High Court on 19 March 2014 by Stefan Kuczborski, a member of the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club, a working tattooist, and a member of the United Motorcycle Council of Queensland, which is funding the challenge.


The effect of Kable has been far reaching and is continuing. It has marked a recognition and entrenching of the institutional integrity of State courts as an essential part of Australia’s federal constitutional structure. In doing so, Kable can be seen also to have entrenched within the State sphere an aspect of the rule of law, namely, a constraint on the exercise of political power.

State governments wishing to “crack down on crime” and politicians wishing to vaunt their “law and order” credentials must not assume that they can simply conscript the State courts as their instruments. The “Kable doctrine” or “Kable principles” have shown that not only convention, but also the Constitution itself, demands that the institutional integrity of State courts as “courts”, and, in particular, as the potential repositories of federal judicial power, be respected, acknowledged and preserved.

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