News

An essential addition to debate on constitutional reform


18 May 2011

Professor Anne Twomey: "This unit is intended to fill the yawning gap of information that frequently hampers debate about constitutional reform."
Professor Anne Twomey: "This unit is intended to fill the yawning gap of information that frequently hampers debate about constitutional reform."

On 19 May the Sydney Law School, at the University of Sydney, will launch the Constitutional Reform Unit, a groundbreaking research body aimed at supporting a more informed public debate on changes to Australia's constitutions.

The launch will be marked by a special event debating the pitfalls and prospects for Constitutional reform in the 21st century.

Guest speakers at the event will be Bob Carr, former Premier of New South Wales; Senator George Brandis SC, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate; Associate Professor Anne Twomey, Director of the Constitutional Reform Unit and Professor Gillian Triggs, Dean of Sydney Law School.

The first of its kind in Australia, the Constitutional Reform Unit is a non-partisan body that will conduct rigorous research into constitutional reform proposals.

Commenting on the establishment of the unit, Professor Anne Twomey said, "The unit will not advocate any particular reforms. Instead, it will provide research and analysis which explain the background to reform proposals, including the history and operation of existing provisions.

"It will outline how such matters are dealt with in similar countries, explain the options for reform, analyse how those options would fit with the rest of the Constitution and what their consequences might be.

"The establishment of the unit is intended to fill the yawning gap of information that frequently hampers debate about constitutional reform. We hope the unit will raise the level of public debate, so that constitutional reform issues can be decided on their merits," Professor Twomey said.

The unit will publish reports on its website that provide a resource for the media and the public, as well as the advocates and critics of reform. It will analyse reform proposals at both the Commonwealth and State levels - for example the proposals to recognise Indigenous Australians and local government in the Commonwealth Constitution and the introduction of a system of 'recall' of Members of Parliament in the NSW Constitution.

It will also deal with reforms of the broader 'constitution', in the sense of the institutions of government, such as the Parliament, the Executive and the Judiciary.

Former premier Bob Carr welcomed the establishment of the Unit as fulfilling the need to "provide neutral, rigorously researched advice to anyone who needs it in an area which always attracts ill-informed comment; heavy on boilerplate, light on sound legal reason".

The founding Director of the Constitutional Reform Unit will be Associate Professor Anne Twomey and the Deputy Director will be Professor Helen Irving.


Event details

What: Constitutional reform in the 21st century

When: 6pm,Thursday 19 May (registration from 5.30pm)

Where: Foyer (level 2), New Law Building, Camperdown Campus. See map and directions 

Cost: Free

RSVP: Sydney Law School website.


Media enquiries: Verity Leatherdale, 9351 4312, 0419 278 715, verity.leatherdale@sydney.edu.au