The Australian Constitution and the Aid/Watch Case

Main Article Content

George Williams


The Australian Constitution played a significant role in underpinning the result in the Aid/Watch Case. It was invoked by the majority to support their conclusion that a body can be a ‘charitable institution’ despite engaging in political activities.

The use of the Constitution in this way came as a surprise. The case extended an existing constitutional principle relating to freedom of political communication from its electoral base into the protection of the political activities of non-government organisations. This may have future ramifications for those organisations in other areas, as well as further implications for the development of what it means to be a charity in Australia.

This article examines the use of the Australian Constitution in the Aid/Watch Case. It explains how the High Court was able to invoke the Constitution in defining what it means to be a ‘charitable institution’. It also examines the implications of that reasoning for the development of charitable law in Australia.

Article Details

Articles (refereed)
Author Biography

George Williams, University of New South Wales

Anthony Mason Professor, Scientia Professor and Foundation Director, Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law, Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales; Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow; Barrister, New South Wales Bar.