LAW5434 - Principles of government law and administration - 2018

6 points, SCA Band 3, 0.125 EFTSL

Postgraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Chief examiner(s)

Professor Matthew Groves Research ProfileResearch Profile (

Quota applies

Postgraduate programs are based on a model of small group teaching and therefore class sizes need to be restricted.

Not offered in 2018


JD students will be expected to have completed or be enrolled in LAW5014 Principles of administrative law. Other students should have knowledge of or experience in government decision making.


For postgraduate Law discontinuation dates, please see

For postgraduate Law unit timetables, please see

Previously coded as LAW7498


Government is much more than law. This unit examines the legal, policy and ethical issues affecting government at the federal, state and local council levels. This course will enable students and practicing officials to understand how governments and their administrative processes are structured, how the legal operation of government is affected by Westminster principles, oversight bodies and public sector ethics and how government is changing.

The first part of the course will focus on understanding the legal framework of government, with particular attention to parliamentary and ministerial oversight of government decision making. This part of the unit will build upon and advance the knowledge of students who have studied administrative law. For those who have not, it will provide a legal and theoretical framework to locate and strengthen their professional knowledge. One theme of this part of the course is the difference between law and politics. How independent can and should government officials be from politicians? How can government officials balance the often competing requirements of legal and political accountability? When and how can politicians properly direct or influence government officials, particularly those appointed to independent positions? Another theme of this part of the course is the requirements of sound decision making. What makes a sound decision? What are best practice models of decision making? How can reasons for decisions be drafted and defended?

The second part of this course will address the avenues of accountability and oversight outside the courts. Attention will be given to modern theories suggesting that there is now a 'fourth' arm of government, which takes in the so-called integrity bodies such as Ombudsmen, Auditors-General and anti-corruption agencies.

The third part of this course will examine public sector ethics - the guiding principles to which all public officials are subject. Consideration will be given to the separate and complimentary function of public sector values. What are the special ethical rules and values of the public sector? How much of these values are formal or written? How do we manage conflicts between normal workplace pressures and the unique problems of government such as political pressure? This part of the course will draw heavily on the experience of students and guest speakers for discussion and problem solving.


On completion of this unit students will be able to:

  • Apply knowledge and understanding of fundamental issues in public law, administration and government decision making, together with the framework of legal, political and ethical principles that affects government and the related principles of parliamentary supervision, with creativity and initiative to new situations in professional practice and/or for further learning
  • Investigate, analyse and synthesise complex information, problems, concepts and theories in relation to public law, administration and government decision making;
  • Conduct research into public law, administration and decision making, using comparative perspectives from legal and non-legal approaches to assess government action, and communicating effectively and persuasively to specialist or non-specialist audiences and peers, based on knowledge of appropriate research principles and methods;
  • Use cognitive, technical and creative skills to generate and evaluate at an abstract level complex ideas and concepts relevant to government law and administration.


Research assignment (3,750 words): 50%

Take-home examination (3,750 words): 50%

Workload requirements

24 contact hours per semester (either intensive, semi-intensive or semester long, depending on the Faculty resources, timetabling and requirements)