University of New South Wales Faculty of Law Research Series
Last Updated: 12 July 2012
The Australian Constitution and the Aid/Watch Case
George Williams, University of New South Wales
paper is available for download at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2103978
This article was published in (2011) 3 Cosmopolitan
Civil Societies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 1-8. This paper may also be
as  UNSWLRS 20.
The Australian Constitution played a significant role in underpinning the result in the Aid/Watch Case.1 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.