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Administrative Law

Administrative Law

Context and Critique

5th edition

By Michael Head


This book is now available for purchase from VitalSource as an ebook. See

Constant changes in administrative law and shifting political winds reinforce the need for an up-to-date volume that critically examines the law in its contemporary, as well as historical, context.

This fifth edition fully updates the law to examine recent High Court and other superior court decisions, particularly those relating to unreasonableness, sub-delegation, bias, jurisdictional error and government liability for damages in tort, including for misfeasance in public office.

These developments highlight the ever-evolving shape of administrative law. They underscore a central argument of this book – the necessity to examine the content and trajectory of administrative law in its political, administrative and socio-economic settings.


Key Words and Phrases
Table of Cases
Table of Statutes

1. What is Administrative Law?
2. How to Approach Administrative Law
3. The Constitutional and Legal Framework
4. Where to Begin? Non-Judicial Review of Administrative Action
5. Other Avenues of Review: The Ombudsman, Freedom of Information and the Right to Reasons
6. Delegated Legislation and Statutory Interpretation
7. Introduction to Judicial Review: Jurisdiction, Justiciability and Standing
8. “Simple” Ultra Vires: Decisions Made Beyond Power
9. “Extended” Ultra Vires: Abuse of Power
10. “Extended” Ultra Vires: Refusal to Exercise a Discretion
11. Procedural Fairness (Natural Justice)
12. The Content of the Hearing Rule
13. The Bias Rule, Reasons and Probative Evidence
14. Substantive Fairness? Estoppel: Undertakings Regarding the Future Exercise of Power
15. Jurisdictional Errors and Ouster Clauses
16. The Final Hurdle! Judicial Remedies and the ADJR Act
17. A Brief Overview and Exam Advice

Case Study 1: The Release of the 1975 “Palace Letters”
Case Study 2: The Removal of the Kosovar Refugees


Reviews of previous editions:

The fourth edition of this book comes 12 years after the first. Unsurprisingly,
 it contains updates and reviews of 
the many legislative changes and judicial rulings, as well as of altered
 AAT arrangements, that have taken place since its 2012 predecessor. Head identifies High Court administrative
 law decisions where he says political considerations have been candidly applied; limits have been imposed on the use of ministerial determinations; a less restrictive approach to Wednesbury unreasonableness has been adopted; the employment of "legitimate expectations" language has been abandoned; and the requirements of procedural fairness have been narrowed in recent years.

The distinctive element of the book
 is its self-proclaimed "critical, inquiring and rigorous eye" and its inclination to place administrative law "in context". Head argues that it is refashioned continuously by economic and financial interests, political assumptions and official expediency, instancing decisions such as those dealing with Haneef, the Mutitjulu Aboriginal Community and the "Malaysian Solution". Head's analysis of the evolution of administrative law goes beyond being a black-letter exegesis and is more a book which enables a reader to understand at a sophisticated level the undercurrents that shape and reshape how government decisions are held to account by the courts.

Ian Freckelton QC, InPrint, Law Institute Journal Victoria, March 2018

Administrative law is often regarded as a difficult area to understand because it is concerned with the exercise of power. In 2005 Michael Head wrote Administrative Law: Context and critique and it was warmly received as providing a concise overview of the relevant principles and processes. It stood out in the crowded marketplace for being easy to understand yet comprehensive. ... The third edition maintains these distinctive qualities. ... Administrative Law: Context and critique will retain its place as a useful starting point for those embarking on the study of law with respect to administrative activities. Read full review...

Christopher Brien, Victoria University, InPrint LIJ, March 2013

A very useful guide that provides an overview of this difficult area of law as a primary guide for the student. Practitioners will also find it an invaluable first point of reference. The book is written in a clear and concise style [which] allows the reader to quickly establish the relevant principles … The book achieves its purpose of making administrative law understandable, accessible and interesting. … For those of us who work in this area of law, Michael Head’s book is an essential addition to the library.

CJ King, Victorian Bar News, Summer 2006

Head’s concise text … gives an up-to-date, honest, pithy and accurate account of administrative law in Australia today. … Nine chapters explain in thorough yet comprehensible detail the various areas of judicial review available to parties aggrieved by an administrative decision.

Sarah Keenan, (2006) 26 Qld Lawyer 268

This is a book which every person interested in current affairs will find of the greatest interest, whether lawyer, politician, journalist or inquisitive reader.I cannot leave this review without complimenting Dr Head, on the depth of original and up to date discussion contained in the second edition, following so soon after the first.

BJM, Law Letter, Journal of Law Society of Tasmania, Spring 2008 - Issue 101

It is written in a clear and concise manner that makes it very readable. the facts of cases and other events are well explained, so that those who might lack a background understanding of cases or events will not be disadvantaged.

(200) 16 AJ Admin L 173


Published 23 February 2021
Publisher The Federation Press
ISBN 9781760023027
Australian RRP $79.95
International Price $75.00
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