: Alternative Law Journal - An Australian referreed law journal

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

The back catalogue (to 2000) is also available, free, for a limited time on our new Sage website.

News & Views

Coal, climate activism and the law of victims compensation

Sue Higginson
New South Wales

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’)

(2011) 36(2) AltLJ 131

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Residential tenancies law reform in New South Wales

Chris Martin
New South Wales

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to be informed of the listing, and may apply to the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal for orders that inaccurate, out-of-date or unjust listings be removed.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.

(2011) 36(2) AltLJ 132

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Emergency Response Act

Stephen Gray
Northern Territory

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.

(2011) 36(2) AltLJ 133

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Use of Tasers by Queensland Police

Steven White
Queensland

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).

(2011) 36(2) AltLJ 133

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Suspended sentences (again)

Bronwyn Naylor
Victoria

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.

(2011) 36(2) AltLJ 135

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Separation of Powers through separation of administration?

Kathy Laster
Victoria

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.

(2011) 36(2) AltLJ 135

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Graeme Orr reviews Political Daze: 2010 Election Diaries

Graeme Orr

Bob Ellis - Suddenly, Last WinterSuddenly, Last Winter: An Election Diary
Bob Ellis; Viking, 2010; 377 pp;
$32.95 (paperback)

Barrie Cassidy, The Party ThievesThe Party Thieves: the Real Story of the 2010 Election
Barrie Cassidy; Melbourne University Press, 2010; 248 pp;
$34.99 (paperback)

Paul Howes, Confessions of a Faceless ManConfessions of a Faceless Man : Inside Campaign 2010
Paul Howes; Melbourne University Press, 2010; 240 pp;
$24.99 (paperback)

2010 was a bamboozling year in Australian politics. First there was the rise of an unlovably belligerent yet effective Opposition leader. Then there was the swift demise of a Prime Minister who had enjoyed Olympian popularity, and the overnight anointing of our first Female Prime Minister. All this culminated in a rushed election, followed by a 17-day wait before two rural Independents shored-up a brittle Labor administration. The rapid turnover of leaders on both sides of politics, the Greens achieving power in the Senate, the splintering of the left (so that the Labor government barely commands twice the support of the Greens), the miasmatic policy dance in the face of climate change: all are signs of a system that is both open and uncertain, a system in search of an equilibrium after the long and stolid years of the Howard governments.
(2011) 36(2) AltLJ 137

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Money And Politics: The Democracy We Can’t Afford

Zim G Nwokora

Joo Cheong Tham, Money and PoliticsJoo-Cheong Tham; UNSW Press, 2010; 336 pp;
$49.95 (paperback)

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.

(2011) 36(2) AltLJ 138

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Participating in Political and Public Life

Ron McCallum

A challenge for we persons with sensory disabilities

Unanimous JuryArticle 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.

(2011) 36(2) AltLJ 80

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The Law Of Politics: Elections, Parties And Money In Australia

Rosemary Laing

Graeme Orr, The Law of PoliticsGraeme Orr; The Federation Press, 2010; 320 pp;
$125 (paperback)

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 [1992] 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.

(2011) 36(2) AltLJ 140

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