Section I - Law & Justice
The Concept of the Rule of Law in Australia
The concept of the rule of law is based on an ideal of fairness between individuals and between individuals and the State - that is, what would be fair in a particular situation. That then has to be applied consistently without reference to the status of an individual or whether it is an individual or the State, which is being considered. Therefore according to the rule of law, the law must apply equally in all situations.
Although the populace elects governments to make laws to govern the community, those laws must apply not only to the community, but also to the government. Similarly, laws are applied equally regarding State instrumentations such as the Police and those given investigative powers under law (eg. Occupational Health & Safety investigators).
To ensure that the rule of law is applied consistently and equally, courts and tribunals are established and charged with applying the laws without fear or favour.
The courts and tribunals are separate from the legislature and executive so that they can adjudicate issues concerning the State and an individual fairly.
Regarding administrative decisions, or for example Police actions, independent bodies such as the ICAC and Office of the Ombudsman allow a citizen to complain about a decision or action by a State instrumentality and for that body to investigate, report and make recommendations on the issue.
Even regarding proposed criminal proceedings by the State against an individual, the decision whether to prosecute is vested in an independent body, the Director of Public Prosecutions.
To ensure accountability of both instrumentalities (State, Councils, Police etc.) and the courts/tribunals, most actions are public and are open to media scrutiny. This entitles citizens to know what the instrumentalities and tribunals are...