: DUAO - Vol 41(4)

DUAO - 2016 - Vol 41(4)

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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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Amendments to Anti-Discrimination Act

The Tasmanian Committee
Tasmania

Proposed amendments to Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 seek to strike a better balance between free speech and protection from discrimination according to the government. The amendments tabled in Tasmania’s Legislative Assembly include an exemption for ‘religious purposes’ as well as amending the powers of the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner to reject or dismiss a complaint. The Bill has been heavily criticised with forty prominent Tasmanians, including MONA’s David Walsh and TV Presenter Matthew Evans as well as organisations including Unions Tasmania and Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, putting their names to a full-page advertisement in The Saturday Mercury calling for its rejection. The Bill, which appeared headed for a Legislative Council Committee Inquiry for further scrutiny has now been adjourned until 2017, to allow the government to undertake further community consultation.

(2016) 41(4) AltLJ 289

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Making room in the ‘hot tub’ for criminal experts

Robert Corr
Victoria

The Crimes Legislation Further Amendment Bill 2016, currently before the Victorian Parliament, will amend the Criminal Procedure Act 2009 (Vic) to give the court greater flexibility in how expert evidence is heard.

It follows a successful trial of consecutive and concurrent evidence in the County Court. The trial was implemented in consultation with the Forensic Evidence Working Group.

With the consent of the parties, the new procedure will allow the defence expert to be called immediately after the prosecution’s expert.

It will also allow the two witnesses to be called at the same time, which is sometimes called ‘hot tubbing’. The witnesses give their evidence concurrently, in a panel format.

Under the existing law, prosecution experts are called during the prosecution case, but defence experts testifying about the same issues are not called until the defence case — which might be hours or even days later.

(2016) 41(4) AltLJ 289

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Politicians crack down on young people instead of improving youth detention

Robert Corr
Victoria

n recent months, a number of riots involving detainees at the two Youth Justice Centres in Parkville and Malmsbury have caused significant property damage, leading to tabloid media outrage and a predictable political response.

The government immediately responded to the Malmsbury incident by announcing an additional 41 staff would be employed to ‘crack down on violent young offenders’.

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy upped the ante, telling talkback radio, ‘Some of those people need to be in an adult prison. They should not be held in a youth detention facility’.

The government agreed to consider this idea. Police Minister Lisa Neville told The Age there were more than 550 young people for whom ‘normal interventions’ aren’t working, and who may need to be transferred to adult prison.

(2016) 41(4) AltLJ 289

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WA legislation in flux

Steven Castan
Western Australia

With the WA election looming in March 2017, there has been a lot of activity in the Parliament leading up to caretaker mode. During this period efforts are made to ensure that decisions are not taken that would bind an incoming government and/or limit its freedom of action. This has resulted in some Bills passing and others being blocked or held over indefinitely.

In October, a Bill which sought to remove the statute of limitations of six years on sex abuse claims was shut down by the Liberal Party that had originally introduced the legislation to Parliament. WA victims of child abuse had expected that the Bill would be passed next year. They shed tears in Parliament and accused the state parliamentarians of protecting paedophiles. The Private Members Bill introduced by Graham Jacobs would have meant that child victims could have sued for damages after the six-year limitation period, this is still current Liberal Party policy. Labor wanted the Bill to be debated during a recent parliamentary session and brought the matter to a vote; it was defeated, despite Liberal and National MPs crossing the floor to side with the Opposition.

(2016) 41(4) AltLJ 290

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Attacks on lawyers

Gill Boehringer
International

Attacks on lawyers are increasing around the world, and represent a significant threat to the rule of law and democracy. They include extra judicial killings, disappearances, political imprisonments and torture, revocation of licences to practice among many forms of interference with a lawyer’s professional duty. They are usually aimed at human rights lawyers and legal critics of government policies.

Australia has not been immune, with a Melbourne lawyer slain a few years ago and a judge some years earlier. There we have also seen unprecedented attacks by the media and political figures on the judges who decided that Brexit must be authorised by Parliament.

(2016) 41(4) AltLJ 290

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