18.1 Supremacy Of Law
by Doctor Mark Cooray

All persons (individuals, institutions and government) subject to law

Supremacy of the law is a fundamental concept in the western democratic order. The rule of law requires both citizens and governments to be subject to known and standing laws. The supremacy of law also requires generality in the law. This principle is a further development of the principle of equality before the law. Laws should not be made in respect of particular persons. As Dicey postulated, the rule of law presupposes the absence of wide discretionary authority in the rulers, so that they cannot make their own laws but must govern according to the established laws. Those laws ought not to be too easily changeable. Stable laws are a prerequisite of the certainty and confidence which form an essential part of individual freedom and security. Therefore, laws ought to be rooted in moral principles, which cannot be achieved if they are framed in too detailed a manner.

The idea of the supremacy of law requires a definition of law (to which the above principles may go some way). This must include a distinction between law and executive administration and prerogative decree. A failure to maintain the formal differences between these things must lead to a conception of law as nothing more than authorisation for power, rather than the guarantee of liberty, equally to all.

The rule of law ensures that individuals have a secure area of autonomy and have settled expectations by having their rights and duties pre-established and enforced by law.

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