A Glance at the Australian Legal System
【Background Information II】
The Australian legal system is based on the British legalsystem.
There are two sources of law. The first is statute law which is law created by legislation enacted by a parliament. It is important to appreciate that laws made by the federal parliament apply throughout Australia while laws made by a state or territory parliament apply only in that state or territory. It is also important to understand that the laws of the states andterritories are not always harmonised and that different laws governing the same activity (such as town planning) will apply from state to state.
The second source of law is the common law, which is the law developed by the courts through the decision of judges over cases over the years. Common law is based on precedent which means that the decision of a senior court binds a lower court. This is intended to, and usually does, ensure consistency in court decision making.
The Australian court system mirrors its parliamentary system. There are federal courts andstate and territory courts.
The senior federal courts are the High Court and the FederalCourt.
The High Court is the highest court in Australia and its decisions are binding on every other court. The High Court only considers appeals (with one exception) and decides what appeals it will hear. The Federal Court has jurisdiction over all matters conferred on it by the Commonwealth Parliament. These include corporate,competition and taxation disputes. The Federal Court can also deal with common law matters (which, broadly speaking,are disputes that do not arise from or involve legislation) when they are included in claims based on Commonwealth law.
The Federal Court also hears appeals from lower courts and tribunals in the federal jurisdiction.
There is no monetary limit on matters that the Federal Courtmay consider.
The six states and two territories each have a Supreme Court which is the senior court in the state or territory. A Supreme Court can generally consider anydispute, other than disputes which involve issues that may only be considered by the Federal Court. A Supreme Court isusually divided into divisions (or “lists”) which deal with particular types ofdisputes (for example building and construction disputes) which usually require a specific expertise.
In each state and territory there are usually two levels of courts below the Supreme Court. These are, atthe next level down from the Supreme Court, District or County Courts and, atthe next level, Magistrates or Local Courts. A judge usually presides over a second level court while either a magistrate or justice of the peace presides over a lower level court.
In addition, all juris dictions have established tribunals to hear appeals against government decisions, administer particular areas of business (such as industrial relations) or administer particular laws (such as planning laws or retail tenancy laws).
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The coming topicsinclude:
· Background information of Australia, includingAustralian government, legal system, and business structures, etc.
· Laws and regulations in various common areas,including protection of technology and intellectual property, anti-trust andconsumer law, contract law, business migration, real property, publictakeovers, and electronic commerce etc.
To view ourprevious news releases for Chinese investors and the following articles of the topic‘Basic legal knowledge on doing business in Australia’, please click the upper-rightbutton on our WeChat platform, and choose ‘view previous information’:
· Setting up in Australia
· Company Administration
· Workplace Relations
· Foreign Investment