On 6 September 2011, the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal handed down its decision in Director of Housing v Sudi  VSCA 266. It decided that VCAT, in an application for a possession order under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic), did not have the power to consider whether, by making the application for the possession order, the Director of Housing had complied with s 38(1) of the Charter. Section 38(1) states it is unlawful for a public authority to act in a way that is incompatible with, or fail to give proper consideration to, a relevant human right.
News & Views
Victoria will become the first state in the developed, democratic world to substantially weaken the legal protection of human rights if the recommendations of a parliamentary committee on the future of the Victorian Charter of Human Rights are accepted.
The Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee has tabled its review of the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities. While the Committee recommends against repeal of the Charter, it does recommend that courts have no role or a substantially reduced role in enforcing human rights and providing remedies when they are breached. It also recommends that government departments and public services have no or reduced obligations to act compatibly with rights.
On 20 October 2011 the WA parliament introduced the Evidence and Public Interest Disclosure Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 (WA) to amend the Evidence Act 1906 (WA) and the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2003 (WA) with the purpose of granting so-called ‘shield laws’ for journalists and public sector whistleblowers. It follows the enactment of similar Commonwealth legislation, the Evidence Amendment (Journalists’ Privilege) Act 2011 (Cth).
In October, the High Court unanimously allowed the appeal brought by two female-to-male transsexuals in AB v State of Western Australia  HCA 42. In so doing, the Court overturned a decision of the Court of Appeal of Western Australia to the effect that the Gender Reassignment Board was correct in finding that the applicants did not have sufficient male gender characteristics to meet the requirements of a recognition certificate under the Gender Reassignment Act 2000 (WA).
Peter Billings (ed); Law in Context Special Issue 27(2); Federation Press, 2010;
160pp; $49.95 (paperback).
The Northern Territory Intervention or Emergency Response is a difficult subject to critique. Not only does it involve a number of wide-ranging legal, administrative and financial measures contained in lengthy legislation — with policy objectives that were initially unclear and that subtly shifted over time — but it has also undergone modifications during the administration of three successive federal governments. In this special issue of Law in Context, contributors with varied professional backgrounds — from high public office, a peak health research body and academia — offer interdisciplinary critical perspectives on the Intervention. There is a clear emphasis on the social security measures in many of the articles, with some attention also given to alcohol and pornography restrictions, as well as to policing, bail and sentencing provisions. However, given the controversy over these provisions and the ongoing debate about extending welfare quarantining measures to other parts of the country, this balance seems appropriate. Each article also includes a concise summary of the relevant law and policy which is helpful to readers who are not conversant with the intricacies of all measures under the Intervention. The introduction by Peter Billings is especially useful in this regard.
Beyond white guilt: The real challenge for Black‑White relations in Australia
Sarah Maddison; Allen & Unwin; 2011;
240pp; $27.99 (paperback).
Unsettling the settler state: Creativity and resistance in Indigenous settler-state governance
Sarah Maddison and Morgan Brigg (eds); The Federation Press; 2011;
256pp; $49.95 (paperback).
I had a mixed response to reading Sarah Maddison’s recent work Beyond White Guilt. Maddison, I believe, is accurate to depict the issue of Indigenous – non-Indigenous relations as crucial for Australia. Indeed, the nation and state are intimately tied to a colonial history embedded in whiteness and the denial of Indigenous sovereignty. Personally, I am not sure that white guilt is the biggest challenge. However, I do agree that this is an important issue worthy of Maddison’s keen analysis and she successfully hinges her argument around an examination of this issue. At times, I did feel that I was reading with a sense of de je vu, in that many of the issues covered have been written about and debated widely in Australia. Indeed, Henry Reynolds and others have written extensively in the area of colonial history and past policies leading to contemporary implications for Indigenous people and all who reside in the country called Australia. In this sense, the book is not difficult to read, because the arguments are familiar, thereby allowing the author to provide an appraisal of their contemporary form and to give a unique twist.
Directed by Michael Rymer; screenplay by Michael Rymer,
based on a play by David Williamson;
starring Vince Colosimo, Luke Ford, Matthew Newton and Sigrid Thornton;
2011; 89 minutes.
This surprise success of the 2011 Melbourne International Film Festival and winner of 32 international prizes may well herald the emergence of a new film sub-genre: ‘The Law– Restorative Justice/ Community Conferencing Drama’. The title is none-too snappy but the genre would extend the ever popular ‘courtroom drama’ repertoire. Both share the dramatic pull of intense stories of human conflict told economically through stereotypes clashing in artificial and confined surroundings.
Directed by Rachid Bouchareb;
written by Rachid Bouchareb and Olivier Lorelle;
starring Brenda Blethyn and Sotigui Kouyate;
2009; 87 mins; available on DVD.
In the aftermath of the 2005 London bombings, Elizabeth Sommers leaves her remote farm to travel to London to look for her daughter Jane, who can’t be contacted by phone. Eventually she finds her daughter’s flat, above a halal butcher shop in London’s predominantly Muslim West End. Although Jane’s Muslim landlord offers her the keys to the flat, Elizabeth couldn’t be more distrusting or suspicious. Aren’t these the people who just detonated bombs on three peak hour trains and a bus?
Elton John & Leon Russell; CD;
Mercury; 2010; $19.99
Forty years ago, Leon Russell and Elton John first met and briefly teamed up for a US tour. But while Elton became a global star, Leon — following his success as part of Joe Cocker’s `Mad Dogs and Englishmen’ tour movie/album — gradually settled for a career as journeyman-producer and session player. Of course, since then, Leon has cemented his place in popular memory with standards like `Delta Lady’, `A Song For You’ and `This Masquerade’.
Bruce Springsteen; CD; Columbia;
While some songwriters struggle to fill a CD, prolific artists like Bob Dylan or Elvis Costello usually face the dilemma of what to leave out! Likewise, Bruce Springsteen. Back in 1978, after three years of litigation following his breakthrough album `Born To Run’, Springsteen had recorded about 40 songs but only 10 appeared on `Darkness On The Edge Of Town’. Of the rest, 20 re-mastered originals are included on this two-CD set (plus an alternate of `Racing In The Street’).