What types of law fall under public law? I know constitution, administrative and criminal law is the main ones. Any others?


This is an absolutely superb question, partly because I don't think enough people understand the differences between the branches of law that apply to our everyday lives.

In Australia we operate under a common law system which we inherited from England, and if you ask me it's the best thing to have landed on our shores in 1788.  The distinctions we put on public law are different (somewhat) to what countries that follow civil law systems such as France or Germany, for example.

Under our common law system public law is the body of law that governs how people behave and relate to each other and with the government.  Just note, when I say people that can also include companies and other 'non-natural' persons. The types of law that fall under public law are:

  • Administrative law (the law governing the administration of government decisions)
  • Constitutional law (the law regarding the interpretation, application and interpretation of the Constitution)
  • Criminal law (the law that designates what acts are considered criminal acts that the state will punish you for)
  • Taxation law (the law that governs the raising, spending and allocation of taxation revenue)
  • Environmental law (the law governing the use, protection and management of environmental assets)
  • International public law (the law governing the relationships between nation states- NOT the law governing the relationships between individuals in different nation states, that's called private international law.)
  • Any other law or area of law that governs how the state behaves to its citizens or a law that governs how public officials behave with each other or with the public.

The University of Western Australia Library has a really good guide on recommended textbooks and study guides, if you're interested: http://guides.is.uwa.edu.au/publiclaw/public-law

Private law, at least in Australia is the body of law that governs how individuals (either people, companies or groups of people and companies) are to act or behave with each other.  The types of private law are:

  • Private international law (usually looking at disputes between two people living in two different countries, this is a developing area of law)
  • International business law (says it all really, this area of law encompasses things like settling business disputes across borders, shifting risk during the manufacture and transport of goods, arbitration for dispute settlement)
  • Transnational law (another developing area of law which looks at the rules that apply between different people across borders, where the rules are not made by nation states such as international standards, the laws of sporting codes governed by the International Olympic Committee and so on.)
  • Contract law (the law as it applies to contracts including their creating, enforcement and remedy for breaches)
  • Family law (law applicable to families and disputes about or relating to family matters)
  • Industrial relations (law regarding rights, responsibilities and duties of workers)
  • Corporations law (parts of this branch of law could also be considered public law)
  • Commercial and competition law (the law that dictates how buyers and sellers of goods must behave with each other and to their clients)


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