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Legal challenges to the eligibility of former senators Bob Day and Rod Culleton and a court bid by retired MPs to claw back their travel entitlements will be among the recent legal cases dissected at a University of New South Wales (UNSW) conference on Friday, 17 February.

The 16th annual Constitutional Law Conference will feature leading practitioners, academics and judges examining recent decisions of the High Court, Federal and State courts and offering insights into the issues that will emerge in 2017 and beyond.

The conference, to be held at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, is organised by the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law at the UNSW Faculty of Law, with the support of the Australian Association of Constitutional Law.

In a session dealing with recent cases, UNSW Visiting Professorial Fellow Tony Blackshield will discuss the challenges to the eligibility of former Family First senator Bob Day and former One Nation senator Rod Culleton. The High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, is currently considering whether Mr Day was validly elected as a South Australian senator. In February the court ruled that Mr Culleton’s election was invalid and ordered a special recount of the WA Senate vote.

In the same session, barrister Celia Winnett will explore the issues of Cunningham v Commonwealth, in which four retired federal MPs used section 31 of the Constitution – made famous in the classic Australian film The Castle – to challenge changes to the law that wound back their parliamentary superannuation and travel entitlements. The High Court dismissed their challenge last October.

The session “Constitutional referendums: 40 years since the last ‘yes’ vote” will feature UNSW Law lecturer Dr Paul Kildea (What to Make of a History of Repeated Referendum Failure), UNSW Law Professor Megan Davis (The Indigenous Designed and Led Regional Dialogues on Constitutional Change 2016-17), and Federal Member for Banks David Coleman (Fixed Four-Year Parliamentary Terms and Making the Case for Constitutional Change).

Immediately after the conference, former Chief Justice of the High Court Sir Anthony Mason will launch the book Great Australian Dissents, edited by UNSW Law Professor Andrew Lynch (Cambridge University Press, 2016).

The conference dinner will be held at NSW Parliament House that evening with guest speaker Catherine Holmes, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Queensland.

A statistical report on the 2016 High Court term, an annual analysis compiled by Professor Lynch and UNSW Dean of Law Professor George Williams, will also be released during the conference.