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This term may be used to refer to the basic law of the Commonwealth of Australia, as set out in the Constitution Act, 1900. It can equally be used to refer to the constitution of a state. In a wider sense, the term can refer to the whole constitutional system, including various important statutes which came with the settlement in 1788, as well as the conventions or customs which have evolved over the years.
During the course of the 1999 referendum debate, the Constitution was sometimes criticised by those advancing the Yes case because it did not, for example, refer to the cabinet or the prime minister. Earlier, an unsuccessful attempt had been made to write down or codify the Reserve Powers vested in the Crown which may be exercised without advice or even contrary to ministerial advice.

Perhaps the best definition, and the one used on this site unless the context clearly indicates otherwise, is that offered by Lord Bolingbroke (1678-1751), put into modern English:

A constitution is “that assembly of laws customs and institutions by which the people have agreed to be governed.”


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