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Laws are like sausages. It is better not to see them being made.
The above aphorism, attributed to Bismarck, was quoted by Philip Ruddock when addressing lawyers in 2007 on the subject of law reform. Interestingly, Mr Ruddock also referred to the rule of law in the same speech. Apparently the juxtaposition of the rule of law with a preference for secret law-making did not strike the (then) federal Attorney-General as odd. Perhaps this is unsurprising: the rule of law is commonly invoked for effect and may be used for a multitude of purposes. For this, and other reasons, the idea is open to challenge in terms of both its value and meaning. Arguably, however, the ‘minimum content’ of the rule of law can serve as a useful framework for reflecting on the exercise of public power, notwithstanding its contested nature. This minimum content is generally understood by reference to various accepted attributes, including generality, openness, certainty, impartiality, access to the courts and so on. These characteristics overlap with, and complement, those of transparency, accountability and public participation which are central to an effective system of responsible and representative government. In this context, the rule of law may be viewed as a means of eschewing arbitrary rule and constraining the exercise of executive power.