In recent decades the High Court has been the center of much political controversy, particularly in regards to the impact of a number of its landmark decisions. .
Assess the reasons for this on-going debate about the role and decisions of the High Court. .
The High Court of Australia sits at the apex of the judicial system in Australia. It is the ultimate authority on the law and the ultimate authority in interpreting the Constitution. Since 1980 the decisions of the High Court have been elevated to a level of intense scrutiny and commentary. Like all cases in the Australian judicial system, each judgment has winner and a loser. However, given the importance of the High Court, the winners and losers of the cases are not seen simply as the parties involved. The parties become representative of much larger and more important social and political forces. The on-going debate about these recent decisions is resulting from the thought that the High Court is an overly political institution. The controversy centers around the interpretation of the Constitution and statutory legislation about the power of the Commonwealth compared to the States.
In recent times the High Court has played an active and even controversial role in the history of the Australian legal system. The creation of a federal system presupposes the establishment of a judicial umpire to regulate the constitutional relationship between the two levels of government. This is reflected in the Australian Constitution where sections 71 to 80 establish the role, basic structure, and jurisdiction of the High Court of Australia. Section 74 indicates clearly that one of the High Court's functions is to make decision "as to the limits of the Constitutional powers of the Commonwealth and those of any State or States- While it is the cabinet, in council with the Governor General, who appoints judges to the bench of this neutral umpire, security of tenure was intended to preserve such neutrality.