Australian law

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Joe Hockey’s successful defamation case against Fairfax Media raises questions about the extent to which politicians should be able to sue in relation to publications about their public conduct. AAP/Dan Himbrechts

Hockey v Fairfax should start the debate on defamation law reform

Hockey v Fairfax illustrates that recent legal and technological developments still pose challenges for defamation law, which has not been reformed to keep pace with these changes.
Lawyers and asylum seeker advocates are concerned that the Border Force Act will have a ‘chilling effect’ on whistleblowers working in detention centres. AAP/Eoin Blackwell

Border Force Act entrenches secrecy around Australia’s asylum seeker regime

The Australia Border Force Act further entrenches the culture of secrecy around our asylum seeker policy at the cost of open and transparent government. That is something we should be worried about.
Picking a fight with a media company should not be a politician’s priority. AAP/Nikki Short

Hockey’s defamation win is dark news for democracy and free speech

The elephant in the room in the just-concluded defamation case between Joe Hockey and Fairfax Media was the actual story being attacked. Media organisations ought to be able to instigate the debate without fear of reprisals by litigious politicians.
Karen Nettleton, whose daughter and grandchildren are currently in Syria, has a made a public plea for her family to be allowed to return to Australia. ABCTV

Even Khaled Sharrouf’s family has the right to come home

Whatever we think of the family of foreign fighter Khaled Sharrouf or their circumstances, they enjoy the right to return on the same footing as every other Australian citizen.
The government’s bill introduces three means for revoking a dual national’s Australian citizenship under amendments to the Australian Citizenship Act. AAP/Mick Tsikas

Who exactly makes the call on conduct that revokes citizenship? New bill doesn’t say

Should the bill be enacted in its current form, Australian citizenship will be able to be stripped from dual nationals by bureaucratic determination for conduct that is defined with reference to the criminal law.
South Australia’s proposed anti-bikie laws criminalise the wearing of anything that indicates association with a declared ‘criminal organisation’ on licensed premises. AAP/Eric Sands

Queensland holds lessons for states set to crack down on bikies

While South Australia's proposed anti-bikie laws may be constitutional, there are clear reasons why introducing them is at best premature – and at worst a very bad idea.
A crew of people smugglers have alleged that an Australian official paid them to return a boatload of asylum seekers to Indonesia. AAP/Customs

Is it an offence if Australians pay people smugglers to turn back?

If Australian officials did pay off people smugglers, has the government effectively joined the people smuggling trade? Has it broken any laws?
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton will have the sole power to strip dual nationals of their Australia citizenship if they are believed to be involved in terrorist activities. AAP/Dave Hunt

Explainer: what is ‘judicial review’? How does it apply to citizenship?

Simply having judicial review for the contentious power to strip citizenship from dual nationals suspected of involvement with terrorism – without independent merits review – is far from reasonable.
Discussing the rights and responsibilities of Australian citizenship is pointless without more information on the nature and justification of what is proposed. AAP/Dan Peled

Citizenship discussion paper offers a misleading take on this right

Most of the government's discussion paper is devoted to framing citizenship in a way that is conducive to its proposal to strip dual nationals involved in terrorist activities of their citizenship.
Bill Shorten has introduced a bill into parliament to amend the Marriage Act and allow same-sex marriage in Australia. AAP/Mick Tsikas

Explainer: how Australia can legalise same-sex marriage

The legislative reform required to allow same-sex marriage is not complicated. There is relative consensus as to how this can be achieved.
Tony Abbott risks having same-sex marriage used against him electorally – just as his Liberal Party once tried to use it against Labor. AAP/Mick Tsikas

Why Australia is so far behind the times on same-sex marriage

As opposition leader Bill Shorten prepares to introduce an amendment on Monday to the Marriage Act to legalise same-sex marriage, why has Australia lagged so far behind?
Research has shown that when sex work is illegal, street sex workers who are victims of sexual assault are reluctant to report it to police. shutterstock

Victorian rape law needs reform to protect sex workers

There is a non-binding precedent in Victoria that allows judges to consider the victim's sexual experience when passing sentence on a sex offender – but only when the "victim is a prostitute".
Australian David Hicks has had his conviction for providing material support to terrorist organisations overturned in the US. AAP/Nikki Short

Hicks conviction overturned – is he owed an apology or assistance?

Based on the Abbott government’s stance to date, there seems little chance of David Hicks receiving an effective remedy – at least not voluntarily
The captain of the Costa Concordia has been sentenced to 16 years' jail after the ship ran aground off the coast of Italy two years ago. EPA/Luca Zennaro

If a company causes death at sea, don’t assume that means jail time

Late last week, an Italian court sentenced the captain of the Costa Concordia cruise liner, Francesco Schettino, to 16 years' jail after finding him guilty of multiple charges of manslaughter. On January…

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