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The rule of law is the idea that every person is subject to the laws of the land regardless of their status.

It is also the idea that you cannot be punished or have your rights affected other than in accordance with a law, and only after a breach of the law has been established in a court of law.

Aristotle by Francesco Hayez

How old is the rule of law?

Athenian philosopher Aristotle famously expressed a preference for the “rule of law” rather than the “rule of men”. It has been said that the law restrains and civilises power and is a safeguard, not a menace.

Where is the rule of law spelled out in our Constitution?

Covering clause 5 says that the Constitution ‘and all laws made by the Parliament of the Commonwealth under the Constitution, shall be binding on the courts, judges, and people of every State and of every part of the Commonwealth’.

How does the rule of law protect the Australian people?

The rule of law restricts the powers of governments, corporations and individuals, and protects against the exercise of power without a lawful basis. The laws of Australia apply to everyone, including Government Ministers, Parliamentarians and Judges.

How does the rule of law affect me?

The laws in Australia should be capable of being known by anyone. You cannot be punished  by a court for something you do unless it is against the law when you do it. You have the right to the presumption of innocence and a fair trial.

Why is it important?

The rule of law gives us a predictable and ordered society. It promotes justice, fairness and individual freedom. The rule of law provides a shield against the arbitrary exercise of power. It ensures that judges are independent from the people and institutions whose actions are challenged.