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Materiality and Jurisdictional Error: Constitutional Dimensions for Entrenched Review of Executive Decisions


Emily Hammond

While the High Court of Australia has confirmed a materiality threshold for jurisdictional error, there is ongoing debate about its rationale. This comment contributes to the debate by outlining a constitutional rationale for the materiality element in judicial review of executive decisions. Critically, the Commonwealth Constitution denies Australian parliaments power to legislate a prospective rule that rights or obligations are to be as specified in an invalid executive decision in a federal matter. As such, a jurisdictional error by a non-court exercising power in a federal matter engages a significant practical limit on legislative power. Once this is appreciated, a rationale for the materiality threshold for jurisdictional error becomes clear: the threshold calibrates review to the limit on legislative power, by ensuring review is focused on errors that affect the decisions through which legislation operates.

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