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public law

Australian Law Dictionary
Trischa MannTrischa Mann, Audrey BlundenAudrey Blunden

public law 

The body of legal principles, largely in constitutional and administrative law, that governs the exercise of power by public bodies including government ministers, departments and agencies (see public authority) and the relationship between individuals and the state as a public matter (Latin res publica). Public law in that sense is based on duty rather than private rights, and its remedies are focused on rectification of wrongful use of power: R v Somerset County Council; Ex parte Dixon1997 COD 323, QBD. Remedies include the agency's own complaint processes, ombudsman investigation and reporting, and judicial review. Public law is often also contrasted with private law; then it covers all areas affecting the relationship between the state and the individual, particularly constitutional law, administrative law, criminal law, and welfare, with an increasing focus on human rights; individuals have rights and obligations under law, and the state intervenes to impose sanctions for offences. Which sense is intended depends on the underlying theoretical distinction being made. Public international law concerns relationships between sovereign states (cf private international law, also called conflict of laws). Related fields include international law, comparative law, and human rights.