: DUAO - Vol 40(1)

DUAO - 2015 - Vol 40(1)

DownUnderAllOver Cartoon

Developments around the country

DownUnderAllOver is a round-up of legal news from both State and federal jurisdictions, and contains topical articles and short pieces from Alternative Law Journal committees around the country.

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Indigenous incarceration: a ‘catastrophe’

Steven Castan
Western Australia

In related news, the issue of over-representation of Indigenous Australians in prisons is, according to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Mick Gooda, a ‘catastrophe’ which left him shocked.

Statistics released by the federal governments Productivity Commission in November show a 57 per cent rise in incarceration rates among Indigenous men, women and children over the past 15 years with the conclusion that, nationally, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults are 15 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous Australian.

‘That is a catastrophe in anyone’s language,’ said Mr Gooda. In his 2014 Social Justice and Native Title Report, Mr Gooda urged the federal government to adopt a justice target in its Closing the Gap strategy that would reduce the current rate of Indigenous incarceration.

(2015) 40(1) AltLJ 66


What can we expect from the Andrews government?

Robert Corr

On 29 November 2014, the Victorian electorate voted to install the Andrews Labor Government. The new parliament has only sat for one essentially ceremonial day since then, but its early administrative acts — in particular the creation of two new portfolios within the Department of Premier and Cabinet — give a strong sense of its priorities.

(2015) 40(1) AltLJ 65


Aboriginal recognition in Tasmanian Constitution

The Tasmanian Committee

Opposition Aboriginal Affairs spokeswoman Madeleine Ogilvie has prepared a private member’s Bill which seeks to amend the state constitution to recognise Aborigines as ‘Tasmania’s first peoples’ and ‘traditional owners and occupants’. The Bill also recognises the importance of Aboriginal ‘spiritual, social, cultural and heritage beliefs, languages and laws’ and their ‘unique and irreplaceable contribution to the State’. The Bill has the backing of the Opposition Labor caucus and discussions with the government are ongoing in an attempt to develop a bipartisan position. However, Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre chief executive Heather Sculthorpe and Aboriginal activist Michael Mansell have described the plan as a wasted exercise if the amendments do not lead to the creation of additional rights or impose obligations on the government.

(2015) 40(1) AltLJ 65


The end of uniform defamation laws?

The Tasmanian Committee

Tasmania could become the first state or territory in Australia to allow companies to sue for defamation with the state government intending to introduce legislation to protect business from ‘misleading and dishonest campaigns’. Under the proposed changes, which the government took to the 2014 election, Tasmania would move away from nationally uniform laws by allowing corporations with more than 10 employees to pursue an action in defamation against individuals and groups alleged to have spread false and misleading information. The proposal has been attacked by the Law Society of Tasmania, Civil Liberties Australia and the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance as likely to stifle free speech, have ramifications for social media users and risk Tasmania becoming the site of national lawsuits. A public consultation process is likely with the Attorney-General vowing to first take the proposal to the national Law, Crime and Community Safety Council in May 2015.

STOP PRESS In early February 2015, the Attorney-General Vanessa Goodwin announced that the proposed changes to defamation law will not proceed after discussions with Attorneys-General from other jurisdictions, and community concern.

(2015) 40(1) AltLJ 65


Combating unfairness from prejudicial publicity

Minh Trong Bui and Michael Armstrong
South Australia

The seemingly limitless platform of the internet and 24-hour news cycle can create ‘prejudicial publicity’ against a criminal accused through mass or social media before and/or during trial. This publicity can result in significant delays in a trial, or even a permanent stay of proceedings — essentially creating a ‘neverending trial’.

To address this problem, the Juries (Prejudicial Publicity) Amendment Bill 2014 (SA) (‘the Bill’) was introduced into the South Australian House of Assembly on 22 October 2014.

In the Second Reading, the Attorney-General described the public policy objective of the Bill as responding to the public’s demand to know, and the media’s ever present determination to sensationalise.

(2015) 40(1) AltLJ 64


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