Policy and international action against climate change has meant a strengthened climate change protest movement worldwide. Professor James Hansen, NASA climate scientist, said ‘civil resistance is not an easy path, but given abdication of responsibility by government, it is an essential path’. (Martin Wainwright, ‘Climate plea fails to sway train hijack jury’, The Guardian Weekly, 10 July 2009) An emerging response in NSW has been claims for compensation under the Victims Support and Rehabilitation Act 1996 (NSW) (‘Victims Act’)
News & Views
The new Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW) commenced on 31 January 2011. The first major revamp of the State’s residential tenancies legislation in more than 20 years, it includes a number of positive innovations.
Residential tenancy databases are, for the first time, subject to a strong regime of regulation. The new Act prescribes the circumstances in which a person’s name and other information may be listed on a database, and timeframes for the removal of listings — including a maximum period of three years. Listed persons are entitled to be informed of the listing, and may apply to the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal for orders that inaccurate, out-of-date or unjust listings be removed. The new provisions apply in relation to new listings and, from 1 May 2011, to current listings that were made before the Act’s commencement.
In 2007, following the commencement of the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007, commonly referred to as ‘The Intervention’, the Commonwealth was enabled to intervene directly in the treatment of Aboriginal customary law in the Northern Territory courts. It did so in Part 6 of the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007 (‘the Act’), specifically s 91, which prevents a court from taking customary law or cultural practice into account as a defence or in sentencing.
In June 2009 a north Queensland man, Antonio Galeano, was killed during an altercation with police. The police were armed with a ‘Taser’ (a Taser is, in the words of the Crime and Misconduct Commission (‘CMC’), ‘a hand-held, electro-muscular disruption device that is capable of incapacitating a person and causing pain through the application of an electrical current’: CMC, Facts about Tasers, February 2008 - cmc.qld.gov.au/asp/index.asp?pgid=10743).
As the effect of the change of government in Victoria plays itself out, the Sentencing Amendment Act 2010 has been altered by the passage of the Sentencing Further Amendment Act 2011, with some of the alterations taking effect from 1 May 2011. This includes the removal of the option of suspended prison sentences for ‘serious’ and ‘significant’ offences. Serious offences include all offences that can only be dealt with in the County or Supreme Courts.
The Liberal/National Coalition government in Victoria is well on the way to radically restructuring the governance of Victoria’s courts and tribunals. A new Courts Executive Service (‘CES’), independent of departmental or political control, will provide executive leadership and administrative support to all Victorian courts as well as to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (‘VCAT’). The staff and resources currently managed through the Courts Division of the Department of Justice will be transferred to an independent body, directly under the control of the judiciary. The details of this new court governance model have yet to be settled, but it is clear that the CES will be a bold experiment which will test the impact of self-governance on the operation and standing of courts and tribunals.
Suddenly, Last Winter: An Election Diary
Bob Ellis; Viking, 2010; 377 pp;
The Party Thieves: the Real Story of the 2010 Election
Barrie Cassidy; Melbourne University Press, 2010; 248 pp;
Confessions of a Faceless Man : Inside Campaign 2010
Paul Howes; Melbourne University Press, 2010; 240 pp;
Joo-Cheong Tham; UNSW Press, 2010; 336 pp;
The effects of money in politics are topics of heated debate in media and political circles in most liberal democracies. Yet despite, and perhaps because of, this controversy we remain unsure of how money percolates politics and the best ways to reduce its harmful effects. Most of the efforts to investigate these issues, and thereby improve our knowledge of the financing of politics, have focused on the United States. In other liberal democracies there are similarly complex money–politics issues but less has been written about them. Tham’s book is a bold attempt to shed light on the significant political finance debates in Australia.
A challenge for we persons with sensory disabilities
Article 29 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (‘CRPD’) provides that ratifying countries like Australia must ‘guarantee to persons with disabilities political rights and the opportunity to enjoy them on an equal basis with others’. The range of disabilities is broad, however. In this short piece, my comments will be confined to the right of we persons with sensory disabilities to vote in federal, territory and state elections, and the right to sit as members of juries. Put briefly, my focus will be on persons like myself who are blind, or who are significantly vision impaired, and persons who are deaf or who are significantly hard of hearing.
Graeme Orr; The Federation Press, 2010; 320 pp;
As a young recruit to the Commonwealth public service in 1984, I recall being taken to the National Press Club to hear an address by ‘our’ minister, the late Mick Young, Special Minister of State, on major changes to the electoral law including the creation of the Australian Electoral Commission, the first general increase in the size of the federal parliament since 1949, above the line voting for the Senate and the registration and public funding of political parties and candidates. At the time, it seemed, the subject matter was eclipsed for dullness only by the then-notorious rubber chicken of the press club; but perspectives change. After many years’ involvement in supporting legislative and committee processes in the Senate, including as secretary to the Select Committee on Political Broadcasts and Political Disclosures (inquiring into the so-called ‘ad ban’ Bill, successfully challenged in Australian Capital Television Pty Ltd v Commonwealth  HCA 1), it is impossible not to be drawn by Graeme Orr’s new book, The Law of Politics: Elections, Parties and Money in Australia.