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Analysis and Comment (120)

The process of delivering the justice that foreign minister Julie Bishop demanded for MH17 victims will be neither simple nor swift. The process of delivering the justice that foreign minister Julie Bishop demanded for MH17 victims will be neither simple nor swift. EPA/Andrew Gombert

Achieving elusive justice for flight MH17 victims will be a challenge

Addressing the United Nations Security Council, Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop condemned the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 as “barbaric” and “an absolute outrage”. She demanded justice…
Tabloid media invite readers to ‘be the judge’ but when acquainted with all the facts of a case the public actually leans towards lighter sentences than the judges impose. Tabloid media invite readers to ‘be the judge’ but when acquainted with all the facts of a case the public actually leans towards lighter sentences than the judges impose. Herald Sun

Tabloid-driven sentencing policies waste public money and lives

There are fault lines in all forms of government. Democracies are as vulnerable as any other to one of them: the charm of the easy and emotionally attractive answer to multi-faceted problems. This is not…
The 18-month jail sentence imposed on Andy Coulson in the UK phone hacking trial raises questions about the value attached to people’s personal information. The 18-month jail sentence imposed on Andy Coulson in the UK phone hacking trial raises questions about the value attached to people’s personal information. EPA/Will oliver

Crime and punishment must keep up with the Information Economy

If someone breaks into your home and steals your possessions, it’s a crime you can easily understand. Most crimes are offences against property or the person. Even crimes such as defamation are attacks…
Could politicians and scientists in the future be charged with “climate negligence”? Could politicians and scientists in the future be charged with “climate negligence”? Julie G/Flickr

Will the climate debate end up being fought in court?

Society generally has a clear idea of what constitutes a crime, and those in positions of power are usually held to very high standards. Politicians charged with making decisions on the needs of society…
Being arrested does not make a person guilty and deserving of punishment; that’s what a trial determines. Being arrested does not make a person guilty and deserving of punishment; that’s what a trial determines. AAP/NSW Police

Not for punishment: we need to understand bail, not review it

Courts make hundreds of bail decisions every week but we rarely hear about them. In the past month in New South Wales, however, we have heard much about three high-profile decisions granting bail to: Steven…
Victims of crime may feel offenders get off too lightly, but being represented at sentencing isn’t necessarily the solution. Victims of crime may feel offenders get off too lightly, but being represented at sentencing isn’t necessarily the solution. AAP/Dan Peled

Lawyers for victims of crime won’t guarantee better results

The South Australian Commissioner for Victims’ Rights, Michael O’Connell, recently called for victims of crime to have their own lawyers at the time that criminal defendants are sentenced. O’Connell’s…
You can hide for now but maybe not forever. You can hide for now but maybe not forever. shutterstock man with hat over face

Tough times ahead for the right to be forgotten

As Viviane Reding, vice-president of the European Commission, congratulates herself for forcing Google to comply with the right to be forgotten, she might want to take a moment to think about some issues…
Couple risk getting caught by the tide. Couple risk getting caught by the tide. Vicki & Chuck Rogers

Common-law marriage myth highlights desperate need for reform

Your common-law wife and husband do not exist. Next month will see the latest stage in the latest attempt to improve the legal standing for people that live together but choose not to marry. With nearly…
We should continue to agitate for fairer, cheaper and more just legal systems, after a Productivity Commission draft report noted the difficulties for many in accessing justice. We should continue to agitate for fairer, cheaper and more just legal systems, after a Productivity Commission draft report noted the difficulties for many in accessing justice. AAP/Dave Hunt

‘Slow, expensive, complicated’ legal system must be improved

Half of all Australians will experience a legal problem this year. Most won’t get legal assistance or come into contact with our courts or other legal institutions. In part, this is because Australia’s…
We should beware removing the ancient corroboration rule We should beware removing the ancient corroboration rule Penn State

The courts must not become social engineers to secure more rape convictions

The recent decision by the Scottish Parliament to scrap the need for corroboration in criminal trials is designed to solve a longstanding problem: there is a low rate of convictions in rape cases and…
Progress on fair gender representation in judicial appointments has been slow. Progress on fair gender representation in judicial appointments has been slow. AAP/Michael Milnes

‘Missing’ female judges all but invisible in Queensland row

Queenslanders have been subjected to a barrage of media coverage of state attorney-general Jarrod Bleijie going public with a private conversation he had with the President of the Court of Appeal, Margaret…
George Pell explained his actions in the landmark Ellis sex abuse case to the Royal Commission by saying he was relying on legal advice. George Pell explained his actions in the landmark Ellis sex abuse case to the Royal Commission by saying he was relying on legal advice. AAP/Dan Himbrechts

Pell was wrong to blame the lawyers, but they aren’t blameless

When counsel assisting the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse put it to Cardinal George Pell last week that his lawyers weren’t his moral advisors, she was implying that he…
There hasn’t been a radical increase in violent acts on public transport, despite growing public concern. There hasn’t been a radical increase in violent acts on public transport, despite growing public concern. AAP/Dan Peled

Tranquil travel: violence on our public transport networks

Last month, a video of an elderly man’s alleged assault on a Gold Coast bus went viral on social media after a passenger filmed the confrontation. The incident put the sometimes-ignored issue of violence…
As attorney-general in the Newman government, Jarrod Bleijie is entitled to defend the state’s bikie laws, but not to deflect responsibility for decisions on to the state’s legal officers. As attorney-general in the Newman government, Jarrod Bleijie is entitled to defend the state’s bikie laws, but not to deflect responsibility for decisions on to the state’s legal officers. AAP/Dan Peled

Politicising advice: a cautionary tale for all governments

Queensland solicitor-general Walter Sofronoff QC resigned last week. He has now revealed his outrage at the conduct of Queensland attorney-general Jarrod Bleijie. Bleijie has appeared willing to breach…
The Mr Big technique that caught Daniel Morcombe’s killer, and ultimately led to his conviction, deserves credit for solving the long-running investigation. The Mr Big technique that caught Daniel Morcombe’s killer, and ultimately led to his conviction, deserves credit for solving the long-running investigation. AAP/Supplied

Mr Big: the covert technique that solved the Morcombe case

The 2003 disappearance of 13-year-old Daniel Morcombe in Queensland highlighted the difficulties police face when investigating a potential murder with no body and no crime scene. Ultimately, it was the…
Amid the constant debate about Religious Instruction in schools, what does the law say? Amid the constant debate about Religious Instruction in schools, what does the law say? www.shutterstock.com.au

Explainer: what the law says about Religious Instruction in schools

In recent weeks the issue of the religious content of Australian education has been hotly debated. Last week The Age reported the latest development. Principals in several Victorian state schools had ceased…
In the face of rising opposition to its anti-bikie measures, the Queensland government must find a way to cut through the rhetoric with facts and stop inflaming the debate. In the face of rising opposition to its anti-bikie measures, the Queensland government must find a way to cut through the rhetoric with facts and stop inflaming the debate. AAP/Dan Peled

The battle to win hearts and minds in Queensland’s bikie war

One fascinating aspect of the Newman government’s “war on bikies” in Queensland has been the battle for the hearts and minds of average citizens. In an attempt to convince the public of the threat – and…
Out, then in, then out again: Greens Senator Scott Ludlam was returned in a recount, but says the court made the ‘right call’ because voters were disenfranchised when votes went missing. Out, then in, then out again: Greens Senator Scott Ludlam was returned in a recount, but says the court made the ‘right call’ because voters were disenfranchised when votes went missing. AAP/Alan Porritt

Missing votes mean it’s back to the polls for Western Australia

Although the Court of Disputed Returns has not yet formally declared that Western Australia’s half-Senate election was void, Justice Hayne’s judgment has made it clear that this is the necessary, or as…
http://www.flickr.com/photos/national_museum_of_australia/5056220012/

Racism of rigid legalism greets asylum seekers and their kind

We rightly celebrate living in a society where law and order prevail. Being able to follow established rules allows for the smooth operation of the many necessary transactions of everyday life. Yet it…
Sally Kuether has no right of access to any secret evidence against her but faces a mandatory six months' jail if convicted under Queensland anti-bikie laws. Sally Kuether has no right of access to any secret evidence against her but faces a mandatory six months' jail if convicted under Queensland anti-bikie laws. AAP/Miranda Forster

Knowing the case against you: secrecy is eroding fair process

In a courtroom crowded with supporters, Queensland woman Sally Kuether was released on bail late last month. Kuether, a librarian, had been arrested and held in custody for six days under the state’s notorious…
Australian law is allows for breastfeeding and expressing milk wherever we are. Australian law is allows for breastfeeding and expressing milk wherever we are. Hobo Mama/Flickr

For breastfeeding in public, laws are not enough

It’s rare for a significant period of time to pass before another debate about breastfeeding takes place in the media. The latest? Some of the highest authorities have said breastfeeding is okay, even…
Female barristers have had to challenge the male-dominated professional norms of the Bar. Female barristers have had to challenge the male-dominated professional norms of the Bar. AAP/Gillian Ballard

Australian women must hold their nerve until justice is served

Australian men and women in relatively equal numbers obtain undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in political science, law, medicine, business and economics. There is no shortage of women academics…
Code-breaking genius Alan Turing was driven to suicide by the criminalisation of homosexuality. Such convictions still haunt many Australians. Code-breaking genius Alan Turing was driven to suicide by the criminalisation of homosexuality. Such convictions still haunt many Australians. AAP/Keir David

Saying sorry for governments intruding in your bedroom

It is time for all Australian governments to acknowledge a historic wrong. In doing so they will help to right an injustice and demonstrate a real commitment to respect for all Australians. Earlier this…
The Coalition government’s deal with the states over schools funding should not be broken so easily. The Coalition government’s deal with the states over schools funding should not be broken so easily. AAP Image/Tim Dornin

Legally binding or not? Why breaking the Gonski funding deals matters

Education minister Christopher Pyne has announced the new government will dump the agreements with the states on the Gonski school funding reforms, negotiated by the former Labor government. Pyne has said…
It’s set to be a big few months for the High Court of Australia. What are the key cases to watch? It’s set to be a big few months for the High Court of Australia. What are the key cases to watch? petelawley

The High Court – coming to a Centre Stage near you

In coming months, the High Court – the highest court in Australia and the final arbiter on the meaning of the Constitution – will decide several high-profile cases. These decisions, which may result in…
Televised court proceedings will reveal what goes on inside these walls. Televised court proceedings will reveal what goes on inside these walls. John Allan

Cameras in court throw us in at the deep end before we’re ready

The Court of Appeal is to be televised for the first time now that a ban on cameras in courts in England and Wales has been lifted. High-profile media organisations have been lobbying for such a move for…
Two thirds of children with cancer are in clinical trials. Two thirds of children with cancer are in clinical trials. Matter

New law will help drive more clinical trials for child cancers

Clinical trials provide the unbiased evidence essential for improving treatments in all areas of medicine. For children with cancer the development of safe treatments that work has relied on high quality…
The High Court has found that Indigenous disadvantage needs to be taken into account during sentencing. The High Court has found that Indigenous disadvantage needs to be taken into account during sentencing. AAP Image/Marianna Massey

High Court to give ‘full weight’ to Indigenous disadvantage

How long should a criminal’s past history and background remain relevant in a court of law? That was the question before the High Court earlier this week in the case of William Bugmy. Bugmy, a 29 year-old…
Two women wearing niqabs in France. The traditional Islamic garment has caused controversy in the UK after a judge forced a woman to remove hers to give evidence in court. Two women wearing niqabs in France. The traditional Islamic garment has caused controversy in the UK after a judge forced a woman to remove hers to give evidence in court. EPA/Ian Langsdon

Women and veiling: the elephant in the courtroom

The rights and wrongs of women wearing niqabs to give evidence have been the subject of an English court decision and much social and media debate recently. Over the past few years, the issue has also…
Studying law can be confronting and can lead some students to depression or anxiety. But what can be done about it? Studying law can be confronting and can lead some students to depression or anxiety. But what can be done about it? Law school graduate image from www.shutterstock.com

Law school too hard? Why the struggle could be a good one

As law teachers, we have plenty of hopes for our students. Upon graduating, we want them to have a good grounding in legal knowledge and to be creative thinkers. We also hope they will come out of law…
Indonesian military officers have been caught up in people smuggling rings, but what actually happens to the kingpins of these operations? Indonesian military officers have been caught up in people smuggling rings, but what actually happens to the kingpins of these operations? AAP/Karlis Salna

Prosecuting people smugglers in Indonesia

Against widely held opinion in Australia that Indonesia is not doing anything to stop people smugglers from shipping asylum seekers to Australia, Indonesia has, in fact, stepped up its activities to curb…
Nothing on the box? The Home Office is providing a new source of entertainment. Nothing on the box? The Home Office is providing a new source of entertainment. ukhomeoffice

Immigration arrests are not a spectator sport

In the week that saw the British press rightly condemning the use of Twitter to send violent threats to several women, the Home Office started to use the social media site to publicise operations to carry…
Where can I plug in my laptop? Courtrooms are due a digital makeover Where can I plug in my laptop? Courtrooms are due a digital makeover Fayerollinson

Paper-hungry courts put on digital diet

The UK courts are to be dragged into the 21st century with a £160 million investment to help them go digital. Announcing its plans, the Ministry of Justice revealed that the courts get through a staggering…
New legislation, if passed next week, will be an important step towards better protection for whistelblowers. New legislation, if passed next week, will be an important step towards better protection for whistelblowers. Whistle image from www.shutterstock.com

Whistleblowing law now an acid test for federal politicians

After six different parliamentary committees over 20 years, and commitments from all sides of politics, the test is now on for the final week of the current federal parliament. Federal leaders have certainly…
To assess the risk of a schizophrenic attack, we try to work out the risk of a rare event in a bunch of people with a mixed bag of symptoms. To assess the risk of a schizophrenic attack, we try to work out the risk of a rare event in a bunch of people with a mixed bag of symptoms. Flickr/daniellehelm

Are you really at risk of attack by someone with schizophrenia?

A violent attack by someone who is mentally ill quickly grabs the headlines. And it’s usually implied that mental illnesses are a preventable cause of violent crime. Tackle that and we can all sleep safer…
The murder of Melbourne woman Jill Meagher sparked much social media comment, some of which threatened to compromise the criminal trial of the accused. The murder of Melbourne woman Jill Meagher sparked much social media comment, some of which threatened to compromise the criminal trial of the accused. AAP/Facebook

Trial by social media: why we need to properly educate juries

This week, the Standing Council on Law and Justice (which constitutes the attorneys-general of the Commonwealth, states and territories) published a report on the impact of social media on juries. The…
NSW Attorney General Greg Smith (center) claims that previous laws guaranteeing the right to silence were easily exploited by criminals. NSW Attorney General Greg Smith (center) claims that previous laws guaranteeing the right to silence were easily exploited by criminals. AAP/Dean Lewins

When you say nothing at all: NSW and the right to silence

The right to silence when being interviewed or questioned by police would be considered a fundamental legal right by many people. But it is not a “right” you can exercise in New South Wales any more. The…
Copyright law could make the job of creating Massive Open Online Courses more difficult. Copyright law could make the job of creating Massive Open Online Courses more difficult. Legal image from www.shutterstock.com

Legal learning: how do MOOCs and copyright work?

Another university has jumped on the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) bandwagon this month, with the Australian National University joining up with Harvard venture edX. In ANU’s case, it will enable Nobel…
Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Health Minister Tanya Plibersek during Question Time at Parliament House in 2012. Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Health Minister Tanya Plibersek during Question Time at Parliament House in 2012. Penny Bradfield/AAP

Health reform: turning a deaf ear to the High Court and a blind eye to the Constitution

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Health Minister Tanya Plibersek have announced they will return health payments to Victoria that had previously been cut from its allocation under the National Health Reform…
An Australian navy vessel escorts asylum seekers to Christmas Island-but what are our obligations to other vessels? An Australian navy vessel escorts asylum seekers to Christmas Island-but what are our obligations to other vessels? AAP Image/Scott Fisher

Explainer: what are Australia’s duties to rescue at sea?

Australia, like all coastal states, is under an absolute obligation to undertake rescue at sea wherever and whenever necessary. It is not, however, immediately apparent that this is the case. A question…
NSW premier Barry O'Farrell needs to reform the law to give Sydney University more responsibility for its colleges. NSW premier Barry O'Farrell needs to reform the law to give Sydney University more responsibility for its colleges. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

Why a solution to the St John’s scandal lies with Barry O’Farrell

Why is the University of Sydney powerless to stop bullying behaviour in what the public sees as “its colleges”? This has been a constant refrain in recent weeks as the controversy surrounding the behaviour…
Robert Bagie, Olive Bagie, adopted son Ramsley Woosup and Mimia Whap were afraid of flying after losing a family member in the Lockhart river crash. Robert Bagie, Olive Bagie, adopted son Ramsley Woosup and Mimia Whap were afraid of flying after losing a family member in the Lockhart river crash. AAP/Jade Bilowol

Lockhart River crash compensation a big win for Indigenous justice

A couple of weeks ago, Justice Henry of the Queensland Supreme Court handed down judgement in favour of the families of five people killed in the tragic Lockhart River plane crash in 2005. The court awarded…
Rape as a weapon of war needs to stop – but how can local and international communities help? Rape as a weapon of war needs to stop – but how can local and international communities help? EPA/Nicolas Postal

Rape as a weapon of war: what the law can do

During the chaos of war, rape is used by the powerful as a deliberate strategy to destroy any opposition. The law, seemingly, has little role to play. After all, during conflict the normal rules of law…
The final pieces of the historical puzzle around the 1975 Whitlam dismissal are not as sensational as they first seem. The final pieces of the historical puzzle around the 1975 Whitlam dismissal are not as sensational as they first seem. Image courtesy of National Archives of Australia. NAA: A6180, 13/11/75/33

Mason’s role in the 1975 dismissal ‘unprecedented’? Hardly …

Much hyperbole has been generated by the recent revelations concerning Sir Anthony Mason’s involvement in the 1975 dismissal, but for the most part it shows ignorance of the past. Earlier this week, The…
Schools fear of litigation could be driving bans on “risky” playground activities - like cartwheeling. Schools fear of litigation could be driving bans on “risky” playground activities - like cartwheeling. Cartwheel image from www.shutterstock.com

Banning cartwheels: school litigation fears are unfounded

A few schools have hit the headlines recently for banning traditional playground activities like cartwheels, handstands, ball games and even high fives. Parents are rightly objecting to the bans, and pointing…
Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie is resisting pressure to make changes to the state’s provocation laws. Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie is resisting pressure to make changes to the state’s provocation laws. AAP/Dave Hunt

Homicides, homosexual advances and male honour: will NSW act on provocation law?

Murder is the most serious of all violent crimes, and needs a determined criminal justice response. If there are circumstances in which a killing might be seen as wholly or partly excusable, then this…
Eileen Creamer was sentenced to a minimum of seven years imprisonment for the defensive homicide of her violent partner. Eileen Creamer was sentenced to a minimum of seven years imprisonment for the defensive homicide of her violent partner. AAP/Julian Smith

Domestic violence: how the law treats women who kill a violent partner

In the vast majority of cases where women kill their partners, there is a history of domestic violence. Isolation as well as often cyclical psychological and physical abuse means leaving home is not only…
Universities such as Yale need to respect the human rights of their staff and students. Universities such as Yale need to respect the human rights of their staff and students. Flickr/Snap Man

University or business? Yale’s Singapore partnership violates human rights

Yale university’s decision to set up a liberal arts college at the National University of Singapore (NUS) while accepting Singapore’s restrictions on students’ rights to free speech and freedom of association…
Drug kingpin Carl Williams cut a plea bargain with Victorian authorities before being murdered in jail. Drug kingpin Carl Williams cut a plea bargain with Victorian authorities before being murdered in jail. AAP/Julian Smith

Plea bargains and the efficiencies of justice

In 2007, the infamous underworld figure Carl Williams pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit murder and three counts of murder, on the basis of a plea deal struck with the Victorian Office…
The ability of the police to collect images of protesters is set to be challenged in Victoria. The ability of the police to collect images of protesters is set to be challenged in Victoria. sidkid

Private eyes: how far can police surveillance go?

Most of us value our privacy. But in Australia, despite recommendation after recommendation that we reform the law to protect citizens from serious invasions of privacy, there is often little protection…
A good knowledge of the different religions should be part of a National Curriculum. A good knowledge of the different religions should be part of a National Curriculum. Flickr/Jake Wasdin

Time for change: a new role for religion in education

After last week’s High Court challenge verdict on funding chaplains in schools, religious education is back in the headlines. The role of religion in Australian schools has been vigorously debated for…
All religions, including Islam can influence the legal decisions of individuals. All religions, including Islam can influence the legal decisions of individuals.

Religion and the law: Sharia-compliant wills in Australia

In March this year the ACT Supreme Court overturned a will made by an elderly Muslim lady called Mariem Omari. Her daughter contested the estate and the court found that because Omari signed the will while…
The government is trying to rush legislation through the parliament that could fundamentally change how it spends money. The government is trying to rush legislation through the parliament that could fundamentally change how it spends money. AAP/Alan Porritt

Bringing down the House? Keeping school chaplains means a surrender to the Executive

In days of old, when Legislative Councils were appointed bodies, Labor Governments would try to swamp them with suicide squads of members who, once appointed, would vote to abolish the House. On Tuesday…
The military court system in Australia has gone through many ups and downs with more to come. The military court system in Australia has gone through many ups and downs with more to come. AAP Image/Australian Department of Defence

The new Australian Military Court: a fair go for defence force personnel?

Last week, the Commonwealth Attorney-General Nicola Roxon introduced a bill establishing the Australian Military Court as a constitutional court. If the bill passes, it will bring Australia into line with…
Western Governments will be recklessly ignoring their human rights obligations if they continue to support Shell in its US supreme court case. Western Governments will be recklessly ignoring their human rights obligations if they continue to support Shell in its US supreme court case. EPA/George Esiri

Oil for lives? When governments help bad corporations

We all know corporations do bad things. Big corporates have been publicly named and shamed for their participation in causing harm to people and the planet, and they are not always held to account. As…
The High Court landmark decision in the school chaplaincy case is an opportunity for reform. The High Court landmark decision in the school chaplaincy case is an opportunity for reform. Flickr/petelawley

School chaplaincy case: a missed opportunity for secular education

The historic majority Australian High Court ruling that the National School Chaplaincy Program (NSCP) is “invalid” is a gift to the argument for secular public education. Secular statutes (for example…
Julian Assange’s appeal to the Ecuadorian authorities in Britain protects him from any potential extradiction … for now. Julian Assange’s appeal to the Ecuadorian authorities in Britain protects him from any potential extradiction … for now. EPA/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Julian Assange’s surprising bid to escape to Ecuador

You’ve got to hand it to Julian Assange. He knows how to capture the imagination. In a surprise escape bid, he is currently holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, seeking political asylum. He now…
Attorney General Nicola Roxon and Minister for School Education Peter Garrett respond to the Williams High Court decision. Attorney General Nicola Roxon and Minister for School Education Peter Garrett respond to the Williams High Court decision. AAP Image/Penny Bradfield

The High Court school chaplains case and what it means for Commonwealth funding

Today, the High Court of Australia dramatically altered the previously understood scope of the Commonwealth’s power to spend money and enter into contracts. This decision has immediate repercussions for…
Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton holds up Azaria’s death certificate, confirming her daughter’s death by dingo attack. Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton holds up Azaria’s death certificate, confirming her daughter’s death by dingo attack. AAP/Patrina Malone

Lessons from the Chamberlain case: the human cost of wrongful conviction

The Azaria Chamberlain case is a reminder that the criminal justice system does get it wrong, with each error bearing its own human cost. On Tuesday, the Northern Territory Coroner’s office concluded an…
Google could face fines if it doesn’t address alleged anti-competitive practices. Google could face fines if it doesn’t address alleged anti-competitive practices. mark knol

The Google ultimatum: Europe has spoken, but what about Australia?

The European Commission (EC) has given Google “a matter of weeks” to address concerns the American search giant has “abused a dominant market position”. The announcement overnight (AEST) follows an 18-month…
Could a Canadian-style class action dent the credibility of homeopathy in Australia? Could a Canadian-style class action dent the credibility of homeopathy in Australia? Flickr/kh1234567890

The legal challenge that could stop homeopathy in its tracks

One hundred years of rigorous scientific research hasn’t dented the faith of adherents of homeopathy. The complementary therapy is still centred on the notion that water has a therapeutic “memory” and…
How young is too young to be prosecuted or convicted of a crime? How young is too young to be prosecuted or convicted of a crime? Flickr/Chris Runoff

Age-old question: when should children be responsible for their crimes?

The age of criminal responsibility acts as the gateway to the criminal justice system – under a certain age you are kept out. Most jurisdictions have this age barrier because it’s widely understood children…
Will opening the door to region-specific content invoke the ire of rights holders? Will opening the door to region-specific content invoke the ire of rights holders? AZRainman

FYX ISP will unlock ‘geoblocked’ sites, but will it breach copyright?

The launch of a new internet service provider (ISP) in New Zealand isn’t something that would normally be worth mentioning. But the launch of FYX (pronounced “fix”) by established online services provider…
Shows such as CSI have warped our understanding of what questioning is likely to achieve. Shows such as CSI have warped our understanding of what questioning is likely to achieve. Facundo Arrizablaga/EPA

Questions about questions: Murdoch’s performance at the Leveson Inquiry

Commentators on Rupert Murdoch’s appearance at the Leveson Inquiry have pointed out some alleged inconsistencies between the evidence and his testimony, leading many commentators to reject Murdoch’s claims…
Raising the cost of FoI applications is not the answer. Raising the cost of FoI applications is not the answer. Flickr/chrisjohnbeckett

Gillard’s impending FoI blunder

The Gillard government will make a huge mistake if it follows through with plans to overturn freedom of information reforms and introduce an increase to the cost of applications. The expected change comes…
If Australia is to set an example in the region, we need to clean up our constitution and abolish the race powers act. If Australia is to set an example in the region, we need to clean up our constitution and abolish the race powers act. AAP/Courtesy of Traditional Owners and Rio Tinto Alcan/Peter Eve

Australia will need a strong constitution for the Asian Century

AUSTRALIA IN THE ASIAN CENTURY – A series examining Australia’s role in the rapidly transforming Asian region. Delivered in partnership with the Australian government. Here, Dr Matt Harvey argues that…
Two teams of psychiatric assessors have come to different conclusions about Breivik’s mental state. Two teams of psychiatric assessors have come to different conclusions about Breivik’s mental state. AAP

Mad or bad? Expert witnesses and the Anders Breivik trial

On July 22, 2011, Norwegian Anders Breivik killed 75 people, as a statement against Norway’s liberal immigration policies. He was a member of an extreme right wing group and a product of a dysfunctional…
Falun Gong protestors outside the Chinese consulate in Sydney in 2008. Falun Gong protestors outside the Chinese consulate in Sydney in 2008. AAP/Dean Lewins

Chinese refugees risking lives for asylum in New Zealand

UPDATE: The Chinese nationals have now elected to stay in Australia, where they will seek asylum. A group of ten Chinese people fleeing persecution in their home country has presented Australian authorities…
It’s time for the government to review our national security laws. It’s time for the government to review our national security laws. Flickr/another_activist

The politics of fear: why haven’t counter-terrorism laws changed?

More than ten years ago, the Australian public and policymakers overreacted to 9/11 and created a set of laws that went beyond what was needed to protect us against terrorism. With the recent release of…
Shamed senior police officer Mark Standen is lead away from King St Supreme Court after being found guilty of attempting to import a massive haul of pseudoephedrine. Shamed senior police officer Mark Standen is lead away from King St Supreme Court after being found guilty of attempting to import a massive haul of pseudoephedrine. AAP/Tracey Nearmy

Good cop, bad cop: how corrupt police work with drug dealers

The Australia21 report on illicit drugs draws much-needed attention to many serious issues, including the major role played by corrupt police in drug distribution networks. The role played by drugs in…
The UK and Australia have both looked at reforming their counter-terrorism laws, but which country has been more rigorous? The UK and Australia have both looked at reforming their counter-terrorism laws, but which country has been more rigorous? Flickr/neeravbhatt

Who’s watching counter-terrorism laws in Australia?

Within a couple of weeks of each other, the independent monitors of counter-terrorism laws in both the UK and Australia have delivered their reports assessing the operation of national security legislation…
Scientists are clear that tuna catch needs to be cut, but figuring out who will fish less and where is much trickier. Scientists are clear that tuna catch needs to be cut, but figuring out who will fish less and where is much trickier. AAP

What a tangled net: unravelling the international complications of tuna conservation

The eighth meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission concluded in Guam on Friday 30 March 2012. Five hundred delegates from more than 40 countries argued for a week about how to reduce…
The government’s obligations to immigration detainees are very similar to those of prisoners. The government’s obligations to immigration detainees are very similar to those of prisoners. AAP/Dean Lewins

After Serco, what rights do asylum seekers have in detention?

A training manual instructing immigration detention centre guards to use force to incapacitate detainees was leaked this week. It included techniques to kick, punch and target pressure points on detainees…
Gina Rinehart with daughter Ginia Rinehart attend a State Reception for Queen Elizabeth II in Perth. Gina Rinehart with daughter Ginia Rinehart attend a State Reception for Queen Elizabeth II in Perth. AAP/Lincoln Baker

Forget the personality sideshow, serious legal issues are at the heart of Rinehart family feud

The dispute between Australia’s richest person, Gina Rinehart, and her children is more than a private squabble between relatives. The high profile of the litigants meant the case was always going to attract…
The High Court decision against Palm Island rioter, Lex Wotton highlights concerns about how little our constitution does to protect us. The High Court decision against Palm Island rioter, Lex Wotton highlights concerns about how little our constitution does to protect us. AAP Image/Ian Hitchcock

Silencing Lex Wotton: Palm Island riot decision a blow for freedom of speech

When a prisoner has served their time, it’s difficult to understand why they would be stopped from engaging in public debate or communicating with the media. But a new precedent has been set by the High…
Many groups have called for sharia, or Islamic law in Australia, but is it workable? Many groups have called for sharia, or Islamic law in Australia, but is it workable? EPA/Andy Rain

Sharia: why a dual legal system will not work in Australia

A major Australian Islamic group recently argued for a formal recognition of sharia or Muslim law in the Australian legal system. According to the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Australia should…
The new Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon needs to commit to more serious reforms of human rights in Australia. The new Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon needs to commit to more serious reforms of human rights in Australia. Flickr/Takver

A flawed and limited plan: Australia’s human rights failures to continue

While Australia makes much of its human rights standards in international dialogues, its own track record is variable to say the least – human rights concerns around the Northern Territory intervention…
The leadership spill could lead to constitutional confusion if Rudd wins next week’s ballot. The leadership spill could lead to constitutional confusion if Rudd wins next week’s ballot. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

What happens if Kevin Rudd wins the leadership spill?

Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced this morning that she will hold a leadership ballot at 10am on Monday, to “settle once and for all” Labor’s escalating leadership crisis. Kevin Rudd has not formally…
Comments posted by the writer have seen Twitter sued for defamation. Comments posted by the writer have seen Twitter sued for defamation. Mosman Library

Will Marieke Hardy’s Twitter case change Australian law for ever?

Twitter is being sued for defamation by a Melbourne man who was wrongly identified as the author of a “hate blog” directed at writer and TV personality, Marieke Hardy. Hardy posted a tweet last year to…
Tony Abbott says the end is near for the government, but can he bring it down? Tony Abbott says the end is near for the government, but can he bring it down? AAP/Alan Porritt

Explainer: motions of no confidence and the constitution

After declaring the Gillard government was entering its “endgame”, opposition leader Tony Abbott is believed to be preparing to table a motion of no confidence. Since Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie…
It’s essential that we get it right when it comes to changing our constitution to recognise Aboriginal Australians. It’s essential that we get it right when it comes to changing our constitution to recognise Aboriginal Australians. Flickr/Rusty Stewart

Indigenous recognition: we can’t afford to water down constitutional reform

Earlier this year, the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians gave its final recommendations to the government. Recognition would acknowledge the unique place of Aboriginal…
Convicted murderer Keli Lane is one of Australia’s most famous cases of infanticide. Convicted murderer Keli Lane is one of Australia’s most famous cases of infanticide. AAP Image/Dean Lewins

Safe haven: preventing women from harming their babies

In December 2010, Keli Lane, a former champion water polo player, was convicted of the 1996 murder of her two day old daughter, Tegan. The new-born girl was never seen again after leaving the hospital…
The Treaty of Waitangi reminds us that indigenous people must be treated honourably before the law. The Treaty of Waitangi reminds us that indigenous people must be treated honourably before the law. Sids1

A matter of trust – what we can learn from the Treaty of Waitangi

Much is made of the Treaty of Waitangi as the vehicle for the recognition of Maori in New Zealand’s legal system. Australia lacks a treaty, the argument goes, and therefore is constitutionally disabled…
We should take a closer look at the history of the Constitution before reforming it. We should take a closer look at the history of the Constitution before reforming it. Flickr/Rusty Stewart

Indigenous recognition and the Section 25 quandary

The one recommendation of the Expert Panel on Indigenous Constitutional Recognition that everyone appears to support is the repeal of section 25 of the Constitution. Section 25 says that if a State law…
If the US Research Works Bill passes, public access to US research will be restricted. If the US Research Works Bill passes, public access to US research will be restricted. Flickr/the Firebottle

A small bill in the US, a giant impact for research worldwide

Over the Christmas period, a short Bill was introduced into the US House of Representatives. The Research Works Act aims to make it illegal to require researchers to make their work publicly available…
When people need to beg, the last thing we should be doing is seeing them as criminals. When people need to beg, the last thing we should be doing is seeing them as criminals. Flickr/galawebdesign

Forget your coins, we want change: begging should not be a crime

The criminal offence of begging should be abolished. Criminalising begging is tantamount to criminalising poverty. It perpetuates, rather than alleviates, the marginalisation and disadvantage experienced…
Opposition leader Tony Abbott has resurrected former coalition government policy to “turn back” boats seeking asylum in Australia. Opposition leader Tony Abbott has resurrected former coalition government policy to “turn back” boats seeking asylum in Australia. (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)

Abbott’s asylum seeker policy floats in murky legal waters

Opposition leader Tony Abbott has said that under a coalition government every boat coming to Australia carrying asylum seekers will be sent back to Indonesia. The Indonesian police, the United Nations…
The legalities of whaling and protesting aren’t black and white. The legalities of whaling and protesting aren’t black and white. wietse?/Flickr

Sea Shepherd antics make a great story, but the real whaling news is elsewhere

Japanese whaling and Australian opposition to it has become as much a staple for the Australian media in summer as bushfires and the cricket. The level of interest has greatly intensified since Sea Shepherd…
Journalist or blogger? It’s a thin line. Journalist or blogger? It’s a thin line. See-ming Lee 李思明 SML

When does a blogger become a journalist?

Citizen journalists everywhere should be checking the fine print of media shield laws, after a US District Court judge in Oregon ruled that self-styled investigative blogger Crystal Cox was not a journalist…
If the republic is going to be put back on the political agenda in 2012, more will need to step up and talk more about the issue publicly. If the republic is going to be put back on the political agenda in 2012, more will need to step up and talk more about the issue publicly. Flickr/GregTheBusker

Vive la republique! Why Nicola Roxon’s push for constitutional reform needs supporters

The new Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, has made her intention clear to reignite the debate on Australia becoming a republic. On taking up the new position, she took the opportunity to stake out her position…
Suspect Bradley Manning is accused of “aiding the enemy” and faces court martial by a US military court. Suspect Bradley Manning is accused of “aiding the enemy” and faces court martial by a US military court. EPA/BradleyManning.org/

Defending Private Manning: Wikileaks suspect has his day in court

The controversy over Wikileaks will today, at least temporarily, shift its focus from the website’s founder Julian Assange to suspected informant Private First Class Bradley Manning. Today Manning will…
Newly appointed Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon may be surprised to find the bill of rights she doesn’t want is already in place. Newly appointed Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon may be surprised to find the bill of rights she doesn’t want is already in place. AAP Image/Julian Smith

Roxon got it right: we don’t need a bill of rights because we’ve already got one

The new Commonwealth Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon has said that in her new role she would not push for a bill of rights to be included in the constitution. But many would be surprised to learn she doesn’t…
It’s time to recognise the first Australians in our constitution. It’s time to recognise the first Australians in our constitution. Flickr/Rusty Stewart

It’s time to recognise Indigenous Australia in our constitution

Last week, the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples concluded its deliberations on reform proposals. While we wait on the release of their final report…
Occupy protestors have a right to protest; police powers to move them on from public spaces should be questioned. Occupy protestors have a right to protest; police powers to move them on from public spaces should be questioned. RynChristophe/Youtube

Moving right along: what powers do police have to ‘move-on’ protestors?

When police removed a young woman’s “tent dress” this week at the Occupy Melbourne encampment, it was yet another controversial interaction between protesters and authorities. As shown in the Occupy movement…
Young offenders may not be equipped with the skills to help them deal with restorative justice. Young offenders may not be equipped with the skills to help them deal with restorative justice. Flickr/Pandham

Restorative justice may not work for all young offenders

Educating young offenders about the consequences of their crimes is a key way to ensure they don’t re-offend. But bringing them face to face with their victims may not always be the right way to go. Young…
Australia’s Ambassador to Indonesia, Greg Moriarty, has been working to secure the release of the 14 year old, amid huge media interest. Australia’s Ambassador to Indonesia, Greg Moriarty, has been working to secure the release of the 14 year old, amid huge media interest. AFP/Sonny Tumbelaka

Bali teenager used as political pawn in domestic politics

The arrest of a 14 year old Australian boy accused of possessing marijuana in Bali has provoked a media storm. The Australian Ambassador to Indonesia says the case is his “top priority”, and even the Prime…
ABC’s The Slap investigates the complex and very personal views of those at the heart of a smacking case. ABC’s The Slap investigates the complex and very personal views of those at the heart of a smacking case. ABC

The legality of ‘The Slap’

In last night’s ABC program, The Slap, an impulsive slap changed everything. A man struck someone else’s child at a barbecue provoking a legal challenge. In real life, that would be an assault, though…
What is Australia’s responsibility for low-lying neighbours like Palau? What is Australia’s responsibility for low-lying neighbours like Palau? CasaDeQueso

See you in court: the rising tide of international climate litigation

The Pacific Island State of Palau recently announced it will seek an Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ), asking whether countries have a responsibility to avoid their emissions…
False recollections can lead to wrongful convictions. False recollections can lead to wrongful convictions. Justin Gaurav Murgai

Forensic psychology prevents miscarriages of justice … and memory

A recent series of articles on The Conversation focused on the value of forensic science in criminal cases. Many specialities were covered. But what about forensic psychology? Professionals in this field…
The ACCC has pledged to take more businesses to court over anti-competitive behaviour. The ACCC has pledged to take more businesses to court over anti-competitive behaviour. Hacklock

Will Rod Sims' tougher approach pay off for the ACCC?

When the appointment of Rod Sims as chairman of the competition watchdog was announced earlier this year, there was disquiet among some competition lawyers. Would Sims, an economist, readily appreciate…
The Centro case shows there are significant differences between the liability and penalty stages of a trial. The Centro case shows there are significant differences between the liability and penalty stages of a trial. AAP

Did Centro’s directors really get off lightly?

The Federal Court ruling in the Centro Properties Group case in June has been viewed by many as significantly raising the legal bar in relation to Australian company directors' duty of care. Yet the penalties…
Australian law needs to catch up with technology which means we can be watched at any time. Australian law needs to catch up with technology which means we can be watched at any time. Flickr/Esther Gibbons

Why privacy laws should not be a game of roulette

Watching other people is human. It’s why TV shows like Big Brother, and paparazzi magazines flourish. But while some people choose to expose private moments, others do not. And Australian law doesn’t always…
In Australia, forensic evidence is coming under increasing scrutiny. In Australia, forensic evidence is coming under increasing scrutiny. Andrea Hayward/AAP

The CSI effect: are jurors starstruck by forensic evidence?

FORENSICS AUSTRALIA – Jurors without technical training are frequently required to consider complex forensic evidence. It’s not just a matter of understanding the forensic evidence: in the case of “opposing…
Bikie gang members in Adelaide last year protesting about laws aimed at breaking their organisations. Bikie gang members in Adelaide last year protesting about laws aimed at breaking their organisations. AAP

National bikie gang laws: the wrong approach

Police across Australia have called for a uniform national law to deal with what they say is a severe criminal threat by outlaw motorcycle gangs. The law would be similar to legislation in South Australia…
The battles currently being waged raise serious questions about patent law. The battles currently being waged raise serious questions about patent law. Yonhap/AAPIMAGE

Samsung Galaxy Tab vs Apple iPad: the tablet patent wars hit Australia

The mobile patent wars, it seems, have reached Australian shores. On Monday, representatives of Apple and Samsung were in the Australian Federal Court, fighting it out over Samsung’s Galaxy Tab tablet…
Would a right to privacy have helped Lara Bingle? AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy. Would a right to privacy have helped Lara Bingle? AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy.

Breaching confidence: do we need a privacy tort?

Who would have predicted there would be serious talk of a statutory privacy tort in Australia, giving private individuals who feel their privacy as been breached the right to sue? But then again, who would…
It costs $207 a day to keep one prisoner in jail. It costs $207 a day to keep one prisoner in jail. Flickr/winterofdiscontent

Prison rates down, but not enough

Australia’s prison population is decreasing. But it’s a little too early to break out the champagne. The huge regional differences reveal that imprisonment is not based on the crime you commit, but the…
The phones of victims of the London bombings were allegedly hacked by staff at the News of the World. The phones of victims of the London bombings were allegedly hacked by staff at the News of the World. AFP/Dylan Martine/WPA pool

‘Deplorable and indefensible’: the ethics of the News of the World

The British newspaper The News of the World is being investigated over allegations of hacking into the phones of relatives of the victims of the bombings in London in July 2005. It’s also thought those…
Former Securency chief financial officer Mitchell Anderson, left, is facing foreign bribery charges. Former Securency chief financial officer Mitchell Anderson, left, is facing foreign bribery charges.

Securency charges will finally test our unused foreign bribery laws

The laying of charges against two Reserve Bank of Australia subsidiaries and six of their former senior managers for alleged bribery of foreign officials represents a truly historic moment in Australian…
Demanding climate data won’t provide a new window into global warming. Demanding climate data won’t provide a new window into global warming. nasa hq photo/flickr

Access to climate research data ordered

When it comes to obtaining research data, Canadian academic Steve Easterbrook said it best: “Any fool knows you don’t get data from a scientist by using FOI requests, you do it by stroking their ego a…
Centro Properties Group’s directors were found to have breached the Corporations Act. Centro Properties Group’s directors were found to have breached the Corporations Act. AAP

Will Centro’s mistakes prompt action across the board?

The Centro Properties Group ruling is one of the most significant judgments we have had in the areas of corporate law and corporate governance in a number of years. Federal Court Judge John Middleton ruled…
Australia needs to reassess where it stands on mental health. Australia needs to reassess where it stands on mental health. Flickr/knicolai

Rethinking our mental health laws

Even a cursory glance at Australia’s mental health system indicates shortcomings in the provision of a range of services to people with mental impairments. Since 1993, when the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity…
Despite attempts at regulatory reform, ratings agencies still act with little threat of litigation. Despite attempts at regulatory reform, ratings agencies still act with little threat of litigation. AAP

Should investors sue ratings agencies? It’s a matter of opinion

Standard & Poor’s downgraded Greece’s sovereign debt rating by three notches on Monday, reflecting its view that it would be next to impossible to imagine a scenario where the country could restructure…
ASIC’s active involvement in litigating against company directors is unique. ASIC’s active involvement in litigating against company directors is unique.

Centro, Fortescue actions all part of a high stakes game for ASIC

The outcome of the corporate regulator’s pursuit of Centro Properties Group’s directors over alleged beaches of their duties will have far-reaching implications for corporate governance in Australia. Not…
The Tarkine is our largest cool temperate rainforest, but will that be enough to save it? The Tarkine is our largest cool temperate rainforest, but will that be enough to save it? Flickr/leonrw

Cynical politics condemns our national heritage

Once a place is heritage listed, it’s protected, right? Wrong. Politics and a flawed statutory regime are undermining the independence of the listing system, and threatening Australia’s national treasures…

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