: 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

Human rights-based approach to development rejected in aid program

Philip Lynch
Human Rights

On 6 July 2011, the Foreign Minister announced a comprehensive new strategy for Australia’s aid and development program. The strategy was developed in response to the report of a major independent review of the effectiveness and efficiency of Australia’s program.

Launching the strategy, Minister Rudd outlined that ‘the fundamental purpose of Australian aid is to help people overcome poverty. This also serves Australia’s national interests by promoting stability and prosperity both in our region and beyond. We focus our effort in areas where Australia can make a difference and where our resources can most effectively and efficiently be deployed.’

(2011) 36(3) AltLJ 202

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Baseline Study for Human Rights Action Plan Released

Adam Fletcher
Human Rights

The Australian government, as part of its commitment to develop a National Human Rights Action Plan (see DUAO 36(1)), has released a draft Baseline Study which attempts to identify key areas of need to inform the Action Plan.

According to the Attorney-General’s department, ‘[t]he Baseline Study is the first step in developing an Action Plan. It is not intended to cover every issue, but rather to provide a meaningful snapshot to guide the development of an Action Plan.’

(2011) 36(3) AltLJ 203

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Landmark Optional Protocol to remedy violations of children’s rights

Ben Schokman
Human Rights

In a landmark development, the UN Human Rights Council has, by consensus, adopted an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child to provide better access to remedies for violations of children’s rights.

The Optional Protocol establishes a communications procedure which empowers the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to receive complaints from individuals or groups of individuals alleging a violation of rights under the Convention and its other optional protocols relating to the sale of children, child prostitution, child pornography and the involvement of children in armed conflict.

The new Optional Protocol will now be transmitted to the UN General Assembly for adoption in December 2011, following which it will be opened for states to sign and ratify.

(2011) 36(3) AltLJ 203

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NGO report on Australia’s compliance with International Convention on the Rights of the Child

Ben Schokman
Human Rights

A coalition of Australian non-government organisations has published a comprehensive report on Australia’s compliance with its legal obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Listen to Children report was endorsed in whole or in part by 84 organisations and was formally launched on 6 July 2011 in Canberra.

Australia is due to be reviewed by the Committee on the Rights of the Child in January/February 2012 and a delegation of non-government representatives will travel to Geneva in October 2011 to brief the Committee at its pre-sessional meeting. Further information about the report and Australia’s review by the Committee is available at http://www.childrights.org.au.

(2011) 36(3) AltLJ 203

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Australia’s first age discrimination commissioner appointed

Philip Lynch
Human Rights

The Australian government has appointed the Hon Susan Ryan AO as Australia’s first ever full-time Age Discrimination Commissioner. ‘In her new position of Age Discrimination Commissioner, Ms Ryan will be a dedicated advocate of not only older Australians, but also young people who might be affected by age discrimination,’ Attorney-General Robert McClelland said.

Ms Ryan has significant experience addressing discrimination and advocating for older people as well as practical work implementing anti-discrimination policy. While serving in the Senate, Ms Ryan was critical to the development of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and legislation surrounding equal opportunity. More recently, she has served as Chair of the Australian Human Rights Group and played a crucial leadership role in the campaign for a national Human Rights Act.

(2011) 36(3) AltLJ 203

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Bob Dylan's Legal Hurricane

Steven Castan

(Where Music, Politics and the Law crossed over and, despite the obstacles, art finally beat out the law and the world was better for it.)

Flashback to 1975. Bob Dylan is rollicking through America on his Rolling Thunder Tour whereby a cavalcade of stars and hangers-on traipse along for some fantastic shows in a carnival-like atmosphere. (Roger McGuinn of the Byrds, Mick Ronson (Bowie’s lead guitarist), Joan Baez, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Kinky Friedman, playwright Sam Shepard, Allen Ginsberg, and Joni Mitchell among many others join Dylan’s merry pranksters). Dylan is back in the thick of things and his profile is as high as it had been in the mid-sixties. After years in hiding following his mysterious motorcycle crash he hit the road in 1974 for the first ever full tour with The Band, a huge money spinner that played large auditoriums. He followed this tour with the album Blood On The Tracks (1974) which beautifully and simply explored the complexities of love gone wrong. The songs were like windows into his soul, but Dylan felt the need to speak to the people through song once again. Perhaps something was missing for him. He had moved back for a while to the Village. Perhaps the ‘feel’ of Greenwich Village, a yearning for those heady days of the early 60s — that sense of improvisation, that can-do-anything youthful creative spirit — had flashed before him again and inspired him to write songs that explored public and not just private issues. Perhaps it was just a good idea at the time.

(2011) 36(3) AltLJ 220

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Making litigants more agreeable?

Tania Sourdin
Federal

The new Commonwealth Civil Dispute Resolution Act (2011) came into effect on 1 August 2011 and is designed to foster earlier dispute resolution in disputes that might otherwise be commenced in the Federal Court or the Federal Magistrates Court. The legislation requires would be litigants to file a ‘genuine steps statement’ setting out what attempts have been made to resolve the dispute before commencing legal proceedings. Courts can consider whether or not a litigant has taken genuine steps and can make additional orders and exercise discretion in relation to costs.

(2011) 36(3) AltLJ 203

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FOI documents shed light 
on the ADF detention practices

Gemma Namey
Federal

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (‘PIAC’) has obtained a number of previously classified and confidential documents about Australia’s detention practices in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The documents reveal that the Australian government sought to deliberately avoid its international legal obligations in relation to detainees caught by the ADF in Afghanistan and Iraq. The official Australian Government position was that such captives were entitled to the full protection of international law and prisoner of war status under the Geneva Conventions. This position was at odds with that of the US Government, which believed that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to all captives. This differing position meant that if the ADF transferred captives to US custody, Australia would be breaching the Geneva Conventions.

(2011) 36(3) AltLJ 204

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Counter-Terrorism Legislation: Reform without substance or direction

Mark Rix
Federal

Since September 11 2001, Australia has enacted a vast quantity of counter-terrorism legislation. During the Howard government’s time in office (1996 to 2007) there was a virtual avalanche of counter-terror bills that were introduced, totalling 44 separate pieces of legislation. Professor George Williams has aptly described this as a ‘frenzy of lawmaking.’ The legislation contains many harsh provisions including removal of the right to remain silent, detention without trial extending to detention of non-suspects merely for intelligence-gathering purposes, and infringements on media freedom and freedom of expression generally.

(2011) 36(3) AltLJ 204

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Copyright in photographs taken by trespassers

Leanne O'Donnell
Federal

Another long-running legal case came to a close in March this year with judgment delivered in the New South Wales Supreme Court in the matter of Windridge Farm Pty Ltd v Grassi and Ors [2011] NSWSC 196 (28 March 2011).

(2011) 36(3) AltLJ 205

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