The core functions and powers of the CLRC are set down in the following legislation:

  1. The Constitution;

  2. The CLRC Act 2004; and

  3. The Underlying Law Act

The CLRC has a special constitutional responsibility to monitor the development of the Underlying Law and provide regular reports to the Parliament on the appropriateness of the application of the Underlying Law principles (Schedule 2.14 of the Constitution). In addition to this, the CLRC Chairperson is tasked to refer any decisions of the lower courts, which may be inconsistent with the proper development of the Underlying Law, to the National Court, as set down in Sections 8 and 13 of the Underlying Law Act 2000.

Under Section 19 of the Constitution, the CLRC is entitled to file ‘Special Supreme Court References’ in the Supreme Court on the interpretation of any laws that have been passed or are proposed. Only a few authorities are entitled to do this, and CLRC is one of those authorities.

The Commission’s powers and functions are listed under Sections 11 and 12 of the CLRC Act, respectively. Its core functions are to inquire into Constitutional Laws on the direction from the Prime Minister, and review all laws, other than Constitutional Laws, on instructions from the Minister for Justice and Attorney-General. The Commission also provides advisory and drafting services to government agencies upon their request (under Section 11 of the CLRC Act).

The CLRC’s mandatory responsibility falls into five specific areas:

  • Constitutional Directives;

  • Terms of References;

  • Advisory Services;

  • Monitoring the Development of the Underlying Law; and

  • Special Supreme Court References.