Why don't alcohol laws contradict the constitution (or other laws in some cases, like in the example below, because The Age Discrimination Act is not part of the constitution)?

I think it is age discrimination. If not, why wouldn't it be?

For example, in Australia, the The Age Discrimination Act (2004) prohibits age discrimination in the following areas (emphasis mine):

Discrimination in employment, education, access to premises, provision of goods, services and facilities, accommodation, disposal of land, administration of Commonwealth laws and programs, and requests for information.

I checked that it is not one of the exemptions listed below the second bold header.

I wonder about this specific case as well as the general case.

  • Good question! I've also wondered about this. In the US, for instance, the second amendment states "the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." And yet, we have mandatory waiting periods, concealed carry licenses, licensed sellers, etc. We have the right in the US against unreasonable searches and seizures, and yet the Supreme Court has ruled that DUI checkpoints / roadblocks are legal. It'd be great if answers could expound on the general theory behind these apparent contradictions - I expect the theme will be "society deems it to be for the greater good" or some such fluff.
    – Patrick87
    Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 17:17
  • @nomenagentis I concede that whether it's "fluff" or not is very subjective - just like there are varied opinions regarding a lawful citizen being stopped without cause or suspicion by police. In any event - the question is about (apparently) contradictory laws and I think it's a valid observation that such inconsistencies can be explained by society (e.g., supreme court justices) determining it's for the greater good (e.g., to deem reasonable some searches that others might naturally find unreasonable).
    – Patrick87
    Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 18:37

2 Answers 2


Firstly, this is actually a really good question - The Australian Constitution grants few explicit protections or rights to people, and it does not protect you from discrimination on the basis of age.

In any case, you'll find that it is not a violation of the Age Discrimination Act 2004 (Cth) - see s39. This makes an exemption, amongst others, to the Act when acting in compliance with specified Commonwealth laws, or with State or Territory Acts or Regulations, which typically enact minimum drinking ages.

In general, governments are able to legislate within the bounds of their powers, usually as enumerated in a constitution, and sometimes limited by a bill of rights. Even where the power to legislate with respect to age is not specifically granted, governments are generally empowered to legislate with respect to other matters where age may be a factor: employment, sale of goods, gambling, etc.

  • I thought The Age Discrimination Act was part of the constitution.
    – wythagoras
    Commented Sep 25, 2015 at 17:35
  • Nope. Here's our entire constitution: austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/coaca430/index.html
    – jimsug
    Commented Sep 25, 2015 at 17:37
  • It probably wasn't a good idea to take a random country... However, I meant the question to ask about why one is allowed to make such exemptions, which is probably more interesting.
    – wythagoras
    Commented Sep 25, 2015 at 17:45

With respect to many questions of law minors are not people. Human rights vest as people age: there are any number of variations by jurisdiction, but you will see the following (often constitutional) rights granted at different ages:

  • This answer could be improved with some example citations. For instance, do you know whether the Australian or US constitutions enumerate ages when these things can occur? Are there laws about it? Are they principles of common law? etc.
    – Patrick87
    Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 20:11
  • @Patrick87 - Can't answer for Australia. The only ages enumerated in the U.S. Constitution are the minimum ages for federal elected office (25 for Representative, 30 for Senator, 35 for President/VP). The rest are enumerated by statute, most at the state level. In fact it was a big deal when the federal government came along and used highway funding to compel states to set a minimum drinking age.
    – feetwet
    Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 20:23
  • @Patrick87 - I just amended the answer with links covering most of the examples
    – feetwet
    Commented Sep 25, 2015 at 14:20
  • Minors are not people? Surely there must be a better way to rephrase that? Commented May 15, 2016 at 17:56
  • 2
    How about "minors do not have the same rights as adults?" Commented May 15, 2016 at 21:54

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