Alternative Law Journal:
an Australian, refereed law journal

Welcome to the Alternative Law Journal! Here you can sample our journal with free previews (under the ‘News & Views’ menu). To purchase the full journal — with our signature mix of legal news, opinions, articles, as well as regular columns, art and cartoons — please visit our subscription page.

The AltLJ, focusing on

  •  social justice, human rights and law reform
  •  critique of the legal system
  •  developments in alternative practice
  •  community legal education

CURRENT ISSUE

39(4) Resolution of Justice

  • Liberating freedoms
  • Exploring legal education
  • Protecting the vulnerable

Free Content:

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Law & Culture

Sit Down Girlie

The Last Word

Royal Commissions & Public Inquiries: Practice And Potential

Eric Windholz

Royal-Commissions-Public-Inquiries-Practice-And-PotentialScott Prasser and Helen Tracey (Eds); Connor Court Publishing, 2014; 410pp; $49.95 (paperback)

Royal Commissions and other forms of public inquiries are an important feature of modern government. Executed well, they contribute to rational policymaking and improved accountability and integrity. However if executed poorly, they can be wasteful and costly, and risk undermining public confidence both in the inquiry process itself, and in government more broadly. They are therefore an important topic warranting greater understanding.

(2014) 39(4) AltLJ 279

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Government introduces Bill on mandatory data retention

Normann Witzleb
Federal

On 30 October 2014, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull introduced the federal government’s controversial legislation for a mandatory data retention scheme into Parliament. Under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014, it is proposed that telecommunications service providers must store customer telecommunications metadata (but not content data) for two years so that it can be accessed by law enforcement agencies on request without a warrant. Mr Turnbull told Parliament that “[a]ccess to metadata plays a central role in almost every counter-terrorism, counter espionage, cyber security, organised crime investigation”.

(2014) 39(4) AltLJ 272

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ALRC proposes a privacy tort – again

Normann Witzleb
Federal

In its inquiry on Serious Invasions of Privacy in the Digital Era, the Australian Law Reform Commission (‘ALRC’) considered whether Australians whose privacy is invaded should have a civil action for redress. In its Report 123, tabled before Parliament on 3 September, the ALRC recommends new legislation that would give a legal remedy for serious invasions of privacy. Unfortunately, the current Commonwealth government is already on record for opposing such legislation.

The ALRC proposal, which largely follows an earlier Discussion Paper, is for federal legislation introducing a new tort of serious invasion of privacy. The ALRC recommends that the tort would focus on ‘intrusion into seclusion’ and ‘misuse of private information’. It would be confined to intentional or reckless invasions of privacy, so that negligent invasions of privacy would not be actionable, and be subject to a requirement that the invasion must be serious. Importantly, it is proposed that an action could only succeed if the court was satisfied that the public interest in privacy outweighed any countervailing public interests. This requirement for a balancing exercise would ensure that freedom of speech, freedom of the media, public health and safety and national security would not be disproportionately curtailed.

(2014) 39(4) AltLJ 272

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Pride

Glenn Osboldstone

PrideDirected by Matthew Warchus. Starring Bill Nighy; Paddy Considine and Imelda Staunton; eOne films 2014; 120 mins

The working-class destroying policies of Margaret Thatcher may be said to have spawned its own mini film industry. Films such as The Full Monty, Billy Elliot and the extraordinarily moving Brassed Off all depict life during the 1984-85 UK miners’ strike where Thatcher waged a vicious war using all the tools of state oppression, including draconian laws against the workers protesting the pit closures and the loss of their livelihoods. Those films show the desperate means that retrenched workers often have to go to in order to keep food on their families’ tables and all feature plenty of wonderful music.

(2014) 39(4) AltLJ 282

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Aboriginal Customary Law: A Source Of Common Law Title To Land

Katie O’bryan

Aboriginal-Customary-Law-A-Source-Of-Common-Law-Title-To-LandUlla Secher; Hart Publishing, 2014; 534pp; UK£90 (hardcover)

As noted in the Preface, this book seeks ‘to offer an alternative to conventional Aboriginal title doctrine,’ namely the doctrine of common law Aboriginal customary title.

The book starts by explaining the system of feudalism that shaped the common law and the doctrine of tenure, and the effect of their reception into the Australian colonies up until the seminal Mabo decision. The book then re-evaluates pre-Mabo case law from former British colonies in Africa, as well as the United States, Canada and New Zealand.

(2014) 39(4) AltLJ 280

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Girlie takes a gander at diversity

Di  Versity

Diversity is a Wonderful Thing

Congratulations Maurice Blackburn on winning the prestigious Law Firm Diversity Award. In accepting the award, CEO Greg Tucker acknowledged the women who have made the firm one of the most gender-diverse in the country. He said, It goes without saying that I’ve had nothing to do with these achievements other than watching them happen. … These ladies have created what is accepted inside our firm; I’m accepting this on behalf of a lot of different people whose shoulders I’m standing on now.’ Seventy-seven per cent of Maurice Blackburn’s staff is female, and women make up around 44 per cent of the firm’s partnership.

 

(2014) 39(4) AltLJ 271

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Shrinking democracy with law

David Ritter and Jessica Panegyres
Column

The Australian federal government — and several state governments — are currently seeking to use law to reduce the democratic space available to Australian citizens and even future governments. Legal realist theory tells us that law follows power, in contrast to the legal positivist view that law’s development follows its own internal rules of logic.

In Australia today, the realist thesis is evidenced by several laws currently being pursued or considered by the Australian government, acting under the influence of corporate pressure. Four particularly striking examples illustrate this illiberal and alarming trend.

(2014) 39(4) AltLJ 212

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