In each issue of the Alternative Law Journal, we run an Opinion. Although not necessarily the Opinion of the issue editors, sometimes it will be an editorial which attempts to unify the issue theme, and will point to issues raised in the edition. Other times, the Opinion will be a controversial piece designed to publicise or encourage discussion on a particular topic. But, no matter what, our Opinions are always worth reading. Here are the Opinions that we have published recently.

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Shrinking democracy with law

David Ritter and Jessica Panegyres

The Australian federal government — and several state governments — are currently seeking to use law to reduce the democratic space available to Australian citizens and even future governments. Legal realist theory tells us that law follows power, in contrast to the legal positivist view that law’s development follows its own internal rules of logic.

In Australia today, the realist thesis is evidenced by several laws currently being pursued or considered by the Australian government, acting under the influence of corporate pressure. Four particularly striking examples illustrate this illiberal and alarming trend.

(2014) 39(4) AltLJ 212


Racial Vilification Law Unites Australians

Tim Soutphommasane

Few political debates have the effect of uniting Australians. Yet, in one sense, the contest over section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act did precisely that. There has been an emphatic affirmation of our commitment to racial tolerance.

The federal government made the right decision in abandoning its proposed repeal of section 18C. There remains no good or compelling reason for changing the law — let alone in the manner proposed by the government. Its exposure draft, had it been enacted, would have risked emboldening racial prejudice and discrimination. Such concerns were widespread. They came not only from multicultural and Aboriginal communities, but from all sections of Australian society.

(2014) 39(3) AltLJ 150


Using the law to turn down the Vulnerability Thermostat

Graeme Innes

I was a lucky teenager. My family didn’t ‘wrap me in cotton wool’ because of my disability, and I knew the career I wanted when I ‘grew up’. The law.

I had a solidly middle-class family, with strong Christian ethics and values. While recognising the strengths of Australian society, I was not content. I saw ‘vulnerability’ and ‘disadvantage’. I wasn’t sure what I could do, but I knew the law would help.

Forty odd years later, as I complete my term as Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner, I can reflect on our society — how it has changed, and whether it has improved. Such reflection is appropriate in this edition of the AltLJ, dealing with vulnerability.

(2014) 39(2) AltLJ 72


Forty years of the Alternative Law Journal

Stephen Keim

In 1974, the Legal Service Bulletin commenced publication as a voice of Fitzroy Legal Service. It quickly became a voice that went well beyond even the community legal service movement as a whole. I still had two full-time and two part-time years of my Arts/Law degree to go.

In Queensland, January 1974 is remembered for the Australia Day floods.

Twelve months later, on the same weekend, Denise and I got married.

(2014) 39(1) AltLJ 2


Law reform — or law deform?

Melissa Castan

The rule of law is often called upon, but less often understood. The High Court’s Chief Justice Gleeson said, in 2001, that ‘the rule of law is such a powerful rhetorical weapon, both in legal and political argument, that care is needed in its deployment.’ So what does it actually mean? The classic modern statement of the meaning of the rule of law was offered by the late Lord Bingham who said, in The Rule of Law (2011), ‘that all persons and authorities within the state, whether public or private, should be bound by and entitled to the benefit of laws publicly made, taking effect (generally) in the future and publicly administered in the courts.’ He went on to explain eight key principles, which included that the ‘the laws of the land should apply equally to all’, and that ‘the law must afford adequate protection of fundamental human rights’.

(2013) 38(4) AltLJ 208


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