2013 - Vol 38(3) - Righting Wrongs

AltLJ383cover-final sm

Social Change+Legal Change

Sex, Law and Activism

Connecting the environment

Secret 'Enhanced Screening' Of Asylum Seekers

Alex Reilly and Rebecca La Forgia

A democratic analysis centring on the humanity of the Commonwealth officer

On 19 April 2013, media reports revealed that 38 of 66 Sri Lankan ‘Unauthorised Maritime Arrivals’1 (‘UMAs’) who had landed in Geraldton on the Western Australian coast had been flown home to Colombo after an initial interview had determined that Australia did not owe them protection.2 This story led to immediate concern and condemnation among human rights groups in Australia about the lack of due process. We now know that this new informal and secretive screening process has been used since 27 October 2012 to ‘screen out’, as of 
14 June 2013, 1247 Sri Lankans.3

(2013) 38(3) AltLJ 143


High Court Further Erodes Free Speech

Michael Head

Two decisions, handed down by the High Court simultaneously in February 2013, have highlighted the scope that the federal and state governments and local councils have to impose laws and regulations that effectively suppress political free speech.

One ruling backed the power of the Adelaide City Council to ban the handing out of any leaflets in a city pedestrian shopping mall.1 The other approved the federal prosecution of an Islamic man for sending allegedly ‘offensive’ anti-war letters to the families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan.2 The federal government intervened in both cases, asking the Court to allow authorities to prohibit such expressions of opinion on grounds such as risking offence to a ‘reasonable’ person or threatening business or public convenience.

(2013) 38(3) AltLJ 151


A Socio-Legal Lens On The Victorian Charter

Russell Solomon

Revealing its role as a promoter of social change

The Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 20061 (‘the Charter’) has now passed its first review, albeit with some emasculation. This was never a sure thing and was, arguably, due to it being recognised as a protector of rights, especially for the most vulnerable and marginalised in society. To understand the Charter’s protective role, this article will argue that it must be interpreted through a socio-legal lens focusing on how the Charter has given effect to the rights of claimants and, in doing so, revealed its potential as an agent of social change.

(2013) 38(3) AltLJ 152


The Ban On Corporal Punishment Of Children

Pernilla Leviner

Changing laws to change attitudes: 
the Swedish experience

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has criticised Australia (and many other countries) in State Reports released in 1997, 2005 and, most recently, 2011, for not introducing a ban on corporal punishment by parents of their children in line with Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (‘CROC’).1 In light of this criticism, and the clear recommendation to ban parental corporal punishment, it is surprising that no government in Australia has yet taken the step towards such a ban.2 In the debate on this issue in Australia,3 the main argument against a ban on corporal punishment seems to be that it would be a violation of the right to private family life, and to parents’ right to choose how to raise their children. Connected to this argument is a belief that the family structure would collapse if parents were no longer able to physically chastise their children. Furthermore, it is argued that such a ban would result in parents use of ‘mild’ forms of physical discipline being viewed wrongfully as criminals, which in turn would have negative effects on the children. Another argument put forward is that ‘mild’ forms of physical punishment do not harm children and that smacking children can be less harmful than verbal reprimands.

(2013) 38(3) AltLJ 156


Exposing The Injustice Of Imprisonment For Fine Default

Gaye Lansdell, Bernadette Saunders, 
Anna Eriksson and Meredith Brown

The Taha case and achieving social justice

sroth exposing injustice of impresonment smThis article considers the ramifications of the case of Vic Police Toll Enforcement & Ors v Taha & Ors; State of Victoria v Brookes & Anor [2013] VSCA 37 (an appeal from the decision of Emerton J in Taha v Broadmeadows Magistrates Court & Ors; Brookes v Magistrates’ Court of Victoria & Anor [2011] VSC 642 (‘Taha’)) on the operation of the infringement notice system in Victoria. It builds on a previous Alternative Law Journal article,1 and the authors’ qualitative research related to the increasing use of the infringement notice system or ‘on-the-spot’ fines to penalise minor criminal behaviour. The focus is on the imprisonment in lieu orders permissible under section 160 of the Infringements Act 2006 (Vic) (‘the Act’). The authors hope that the Victorian Supreme Court of Appeal decision in Taha will restore the human rights balance to the infringements legislation so that it conforms with the spirit of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities 2006 Act (Vic) (‘the Charter’), hasten the commencement of the amendments to 
s 160 (envisaged by the Sentencing Amendment (Abolition of Suspended Sentences and Other Matters) Act 2013 (Vic)), and ensure that our community’s most vulnerable members are not unnecessarily imprisoned for fine default. The authors suggest that this case and its aftermath demonstrate how both academic research and the persistence of community-based lawyers and legal aid agencies can drive changes to the law and promote just outcomes for the more disadvantaged in our society.

(2013) 38(3) AltLJ 160


Chalking Up A Storm

Thomas Crofts

Finding the rainbow connectionsroth crofts-rainbow-crossing-sm

Who said that every wish would be heard
and answered when wished on the morning star?
Somebody thought of that and someone believed it.
Look what it’s done so far.
What’s so amazing that keeps us star gazing
and what do we think we might see?
Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection.
The lovers, the dreamers and me …1

(2013) 38(3) AltLJ 165


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