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What Explains Dissent on the High Court of Australia? An Empirical Assessment Using a Cointegration and Error Correction Approach


  • We thank Olga Ryan and Brooke Watson for research assistance on this project and Ingrid Nielsen and two anonymous referees for useful suggestions on an earlier version of this article.

*Professor Russell Smyth, Department of Economics, Monash University, 900 Dandenong Rd., Caulfield East 3145, Australia; phone: +(613) 9903 2134; fax: +(613) 9903 1128; email: Narayan is with the School of Accounting, Economics and Finance, Deakin University.


This article examines the factors influencing the annual dissent rate on the High Court of Australia from its first full year of operation in 1904 up to 2001 within a cointegration and error correction framework. We hypothesize that institutional factors, socioeconomic complexity, and leadership style explain variations in the dissent rate on the High Court of Australia over time. The institutional factors that we consider are the Court's caseload, whether it had discretion to select the cases it hears, and whether it was a final court of appeal. To measure socioeconomic complexity we use the divorce rate, urbanization rate, and real GDP per capita. Our main finding is that in the long run and short run, caseload and real income are the main factors influencing dissent. We find that a 1 percent increase in caseload and real income reduce the dissent rate on the High Court of Australia by 0.3 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively, holding other factors constant.