Published in the Quadrant 24th July 2021 by Augusto Zimmermann
One of the most remarkable characteristics of the Australian Constitution is its express limitation on governmental powers. In drafting the Constitution, the framers sought to design an instrument of government intended to distribute and limit the powers of the State. This distribution and limitation upon governmental powers was deliberately chosen because of the proper understanding that unrestrained power is always inimical to the achievement of human freedom and happiness. As such, the Constitution allocates the areas of legislative power to the Commonwealth primarily in sections 51 and 52, with these powers being variously exclusive or concurrent with the Australian States.
The Constitution was slightly amended in 1946 by a referendum in order to include section 51 (xxiiiA). This provision determines that the Parliament, inter alia, can make laws with respect to:
The provision of … pharmaceutical, sickness and hospital benefits, medical and dental services (but not so as to authorise any form of civil conscription) benefits to students and family allowances…