Opinion

In each issue of the Alternative Law Journal, we run an Opinion. Although not necessarily the Opinion of the issue editors, sometimes it will be an editorial which attempts to unify the issue theme, and will point to issues raised in the edition. Other times, the Opinion will be a controversial piece designed to publicise or encourage discussion on a particular topic. But, no matter what, our Opinions are always worth reading. Here are the Opinions that we have published recently.

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Removing the stigma from mental health in the law

Shane Marshall
Column

On 6 February 2015, after delivering a keynote address to the National Wellness for Law Forum, I was interviewed by Di Martin from Radio National. Towards the end of the interview, I was asked whether the pressure on young lawyers today is worse than it was for me. I agreed and said that I was concerned about the availability of jobs in particular. The interviewer then asked:

So, do you see this issue getting worse?

In turn, I replied that:

I think one is almost tempted to go to a law school and put up a sign saying ‘Beware: Toxic profession’.

(2015) 40(2) AltLJ 76

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Sleepwalking to the privatisation of universities

Stephen Parker
Column

what-do-get-for-my-money-sk-smProposed higher education funding reforms are unfair to students and poorly designed policy. If they go through, Australia is sleepwalking towards the privatisation of its universities. And ironically they will be the death knell of our peak group, Universities Australia, which could not survive them for long. Let me explain.

These reforms are unfair to students. They have to lead to significant increases in student debt because this is part of the government’s case for them. Minister Pyne says the reforms are a way to bring fresh funding into universities, so he must assume that we will go further than just replace government cuts with higher tuition fees.

(2015) 40(1) AltLJ 2

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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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Racial Vilification Law Unites Australians

Tim Soutphommasane

Few political debates have the effect of uniting Australians. Yet, in one sense, the contest over section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act did precisely that. There has been an emphatic affirmation of our commitment to racial tolerance.

The federal government made the right decision in abandoning its proposed repeal of section 18C. There remains no good or compelling reason for changing the law — let alone in the manner proposed by the government. Its exposure draft, had it been enacted, would have risked emboldening racial prejudice and discrimination. Such concerns were widespread. They came not only from multicultural and Aboriginal communities, but from all sections of Australian society.

(2014) 39(3) AltLJ 150

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Using the law to turn down the Vulnerability Thermostat

Graeme Innes

I was a lucky teenager. My family didn’t ‘wrap me in cotton wool’ because of my disability, and I knew the career I wanted when I ‘grew up’. The law.

I had a solidly middle-class family, with strong Christian ethics and values. While recognising the strengths of Australian society, I was not content. I saw ‘vulnerability’ and ‘disadvantage’. I wasn’t sure what I could do, but I knew the law would help.

Forty odd years later, as I complete my term as Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner, I can reflect on our society — how it has changed, and whether it has improved. Such reflection is appropriate in this edition of the AltLJ, dealing with vulnerability.

(2014) 39(2) AltLJ 72

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