The Spirit of Ely – ‘Representation-Reinforcing’ Theory in Australian Democratic Jurisprudence

Protecting democratic integrity and preventing ‘malfunctioning’ in democratic processes, particularly where those in power are ‘choking off the channels of political change’. That is how Professor John Hart Ely described the role of constitutional courts in Democracy and Distrust – A Theory of Judicial Review (1980: 103). Recent Australian electoral jurisprudence – in cases such as Unions NSW (No 2-2019), Palmer (2019)Murphy (2016)Unions NSW (No 1- 2013) and Rowe (2010)– shows the High Court of Australia embracing (albeit not explicitly) key elements of Ely’s ‘representation-reinforcing’ rationale for judicial intervention. This paper will explore this trend, along with the nature of the evidence that parties must garner before appearing in the High Court in such cases.