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Australian International Law Blog

A blog about all things relevant to the Australian Legal industry, international law and human rights. Have a suggestion or a post? Add it to our submissions

Posts tagged Law

Jul 21 '13

Australian Politicians Need Lesson in Causative Relationships

Riots in Nauru on Friday:

According to Australia’s politicians, there are only two causes to blame for the $60m worth of damage sustained by the offshore processing centre at Nauru: either it’s Labour’s fault. Or worse! Blame the boats (some sarcasm involved).

While the riots have clearly engaged the attention of our politicians, it seems that the conclusions drawn are completely misguided. Or as I like to put it: WRONG. 

There’s been suggestion that the riots became out of control due to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s announcement on Friday afternoon that all new irregular maritime arrivals will have their refugee claims processed in Papua New Guinea. There are several issues with this new policy which I will discuss later.

With the PNG issue aside, it is clear that the current offshore processing regime is failing. Just like the PM said it would in 2008 when he began the process in de-constructing the Howard Government’s relic - the Pacific Solution.

So far, all attempts made at diverting irregular maritime arrival (AKA “boat people”) refugee claims have not provided a solution at all. At this stage it becomes more and more clear that these bipartisan policies are “out of sight and out of mind” than anything else.

Then consider Australia’s international obligations. 

Just earlier last week the Prime Minister made the claim that Australia will have to make some adjustments as to how refugee claims are assessed under the Refugee Convention. 

Hold up. Did Australia already a ratified signatory of the Refugee Convention? Doesn’t this mean that if Australia does make those “adjustments” (Whatever they are), Australia would be making a unilaterial change to the treaty? Doesn’t that fly in the face of International law? 

At this stage, my analysis is rudimentary but I would think the answer is yes.

Congratulations Australia. Let us sink into this abyss of obscure backwardness as the rest of the international legal community systematically says:

May 30 '13

The Opposition’s war cry against Refugee rights

Yesterday’s question-time was yet another demonstration of the opposition’s “hard line” stance against the convention-sanctioned protection of asylum seekers who come to Australia by boat.

What came as a seldom-reported claim (and this time was no exception) from the Prime Minister that this stance is simply building fear among the Australian people. 

That’s right. What the Opposition was spouting about security assessments and processing was not supported by any evidence. 

Whether it’s from fear of employment, safety, housing or maintaining privilege; the attitude that asylum seekers are unworthy of our protection is rather over reported. 

Over the last decade, activist groups including Amnesty International and the Refugee Council of Australia have been working tirelessly to put truth to these irrational fears of people fleeing persecution on the basis of how they have come to arrive here. 

All that hard work is being undermined by our politicians doing what they do best, playing politics rather than contributing to representative government. 

At no point was it mentioned in yesterday’s question-time that the Opposition was concerned about all visa applicants on bridging visas who have yet to obtain police checks. Neither was it heard from our Government that a legitimate concern would be our entire immigration system. 

The issue, paradoxically, remains restricted to the 3% of Australia’s total immigration. 

May 28 '13

Tony Abbott supports the constitutional inclusion of Australia’s First People

Constitutional recognition of Australia’s First People has bipartisan support. Should we expect this to be added to the referendum question at the September 14 election? 

Bigger question: how might such recognition be drafted? There have already been a number of focus groups and bipartisan committees set up to draft such an inclusion, which have failed to result in agreement. 

Hopefully Parliament can come to some agreement so that what began in 1975 with the Anti-discrimination Act and climaxed with Keven Rudd’s Apology can be finally completed. To include the people whom we stripped of their lands, their rights and their identities. 

May 18 '13
May 13 '13

The Predicament of being a ‘Y-Genner’ or ‘Millennial’

What really grinds my gears is when a colleague or superior refers to young people (like me) as a Y-Genner or Millennial. Even more annoying, is when they make this reference in terms of technology, computer literacy, or –God forbid – entitlement.

It’s not enough for the boss or the manager to already have it in it for you as you’re the new kid on the block. This is expected. In fact, if it was any other way, I would immediately consider the circumstance to be gravely wrong if management didn’t give a hand in helping toughen the exterior.

Professional character development aside, being pigeon-holed into a stereotype of how my actions and attitude is perceived is a hole I have always had difficulty digging out.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this sentiment. In the driest market the legal industry has faced in decades, it comes at no surprise that the young-ones are a threat to the established career climbers. Albeit in ways which one wouldn’t quickly assume.

Think about it. Young people, not just those born in the decade of the Y-Generation, are high on soft-skills. We read, we engage, we are able to type, browse the Internet, problem solve day-to-day technologies when they inevitably malfunction, and understand the idiosyncrasies of social media. Although, we lack in experience and the finesse which comes with the experience in our early careers.

Sure, most young people are computer literate and have the problem solving abilities to think out technology related challenges. This does not mean that those already established in their roles should rely on young people to solve their computer issues for them. Instead, the focus should be on how to transfer the coveted soft-skills to established employees while providing the younger generation of workers with the hard experience.

In other words, as a young person, I do not want to be known for my ability to fix your computer without you having to call IT down to look at it. I want to assist you in fixing your own computer issue while you also assist me in becoming a better employee. I’m no threat. I just want to be the value that you represent to the organisation. This is because I want to be more than the generalisation of the generation I was born into. 

May 1 '13

Making Career Changing Choices

This is a personal post.

Recently, I decided to move on from my position as Law Graduate at a firm on the Gold Coast. I made the decision for several reasons, some personal, some practical.

Now as I am moving on with my life (and admittedly fighting hard in a drought of legal jobs), it is crystal clear to me what kind of lawyer I want to become.

I write this now because it is terribly important as a student that you know and understand where you want to go before you enter into the industry.

For me, ethics makes up a big part of the lawyer I want to become. After having a huge discussion with a very close friend of mine, she said that it would be soon enough that I will be the jerk that most lawyers transform. I queried whether she had faith in my ability to stay true to myself. She simply replied that it wasn’t me she had no faith in.

While there are many, many lawyers in Australia whom are ethical and diligent professionals, there are a minority who do seem to make the profession eerily like a bad lawyer joke. Indeed, it appears that most of these minorities own their own law firms!

So upon my reflection, I wish to become a lawyer who is a brilliant person foremost. I love the law but I cannot make the commitment to sell off my soul for a career. And that is my choice.

I urge any students or those considering to study law (or even early career lawyers) to consider the same. We are all part of a profession which is suffering from depression and anxiety in the younger ranks – perhaps this is because no one ever seems to stop and consider the path they wish to follow?

As far as I see it, there’s no need to follow the tradition of going from high school to university, completing a few clerkships and then moving onto a graduate programme for admission. Young lawyers (like myself especially) need to experience life. We need time to work out where we want to go.

So in Elvis’s famous words, only fools rush in.  

Apr 28 '13

"Left" and "Liberal" are not dirty words

Abundant across social media platforms is political discussion. This is definitely a good thing. A great thing. As I see it, these discussions represent democracy in action and they encourage more informed political engagement (think: when was the last time you had an argument with a stranger on twitter and had to pull out Google search?). This ever increasing engagement with the electorate is something which is always needed to ensure that laws created by Parliament are a reflection of the “will of the people.”

There is just one minor issue, though. I have observed ever increasingly on social media platforms and most readily in the mainstream media is the confusion between conflicting political theories. 

Often, you will see comments such as “commie” “letfy” “libertard” etc. (I would gladly provide screenshots of these sorts of offending social media posts, but I’m not that sort of person. If you want to see some real action, try:

The true political theories which inform many of our media’s commentary are far removed from their historical origins. For both an interesting and educational lesson on the correct use of these commonly used political phrases, try this clip: Left—right politics - Wiki Article (by SpeaksWiki)

In contrast, all you have to do is type “left-right politics explained” to get all kinds of colourful material.

But, could the confusion be borne out of ignorance or apathy? 

These members of the public, when requested to clarify on social media, don’t seem to know or care for the discrepancies in their use of political lingo and the actual meaning of the terms they employ. 

The important thing is that they get their message across. X doesn’t agree with me, so they are wrong.

I partly blame the mainstream media and the US media’s influence on the use of political lingo for the confusion. Indeed, libertarian means a different thing in US history. However, that isn’t fair on those who do use the terminology correctly and who enjoy the mainstream news media. 

I guess it’s a product of a combination of ignorance AND apathy. Those who choose to ignore the true meaning of a set of ideas and philosophy will be bound to get it wrong. This is a depressing thought, as it defeats the positive outcomes of a politically engaged public.

That’s democracy I guess.

Mar 12 '13

Working in the law, the woman’s perspective

In law school, issues of gender equality, opportunity and pay gaps, and harassment all seemed far flung issues experienced by ‘other’ people. I personally had never had any gripes with the treatment I received, insofar as the treatment was connected with my gender.

Fast forward three years and I can easily perceive the treatment women receive in the legal profession.

Now I must note, I didn’t fly into the legal profession completely blind. I was warned. Several mentors, teachers and professional friends warned me about the ‘old boys club’ that is the legal profession. I simply thought, ‘how much worse than high school can it be?’

Growing up with a lot of male friends has, indeed, desensitised me from the persistent patriarchal attitudes of both young and matured men. Yet, I never had given the issue much contemplation as to the real effects these attitudes have on the ability of women to achieve.

The most readily accessible example I can point to is pay gaps. Just google ‘women in the legal industry pay gaps’ and you will be delivered with dozens of statistics on the pay gap between men and women in the legal industry. Whichever amount you use, there is a definitive gap of remuneration paid between men and women. Accepting this phenomenon as reality, it is valid to wonder just how the gap occurs, given that equal opportunity and fair remuneration are regulated into the workforce.

I have a theory. On the basis that in interviews women are generally more humble than men and men generally talk themselves up more than women, it is possible that these differences also occur when discussing remuneration with their employer. From this, it can be perceived that women would ask for less remuneration than men because they are more humble than men, and men do generally overestimate their value.

Disclaimer: this does not, in any way, justify the pay gap.

Instead, there is an evident need for gender sensitivity on the issue of remuneration. If preferential treatment were to continue in the legal workforce, the industry is missing out on 50% of its greatest minds due to being economically forced out.

In my opinion, both female employees and employers need to be mindful of the gap when discussing remuneration. It is not sufficient to agree to market rates when male employees in similar positions are paid higher than market rate.

Pay is not the end of the problems women face in the legal industry.

Divisive attitudes, such as an outdated sense of gender roles, also create issues for career progression for women. It is not appropriate for managers to suggest that female lawyers have more in common with the secretarial and support staff rather than the other lawyers (who happen to be all male).

Rather than direct discrimination, preferential treatment to males is still shown in the legal industry and can be one of the indicators of a stubborn patriarchal attitude.

As a young professional, I don’t have answers for these issues. All I hope to achieve is that the problem is recognised as such. The next step is moving forward without the attitudes that bind women’s opportunities and prevent them from seeking the same take-home pay as their male counterparts. 

Mar 11 '13
Feb 1 '13

16 Quotes From Tony Abbott to Remind You Why He Shouldn’t Be Prime Minister

On immigration:

1. ‘Jesus knew that there was a place for everything and it’s not necessarily everyone’s place to come to Australia.’

2. ‘These people aren’t so much seeking asylum, they’re seeking permanent residency. If they were happy with temporary protection visas, then they might be able to argue better that they were asylum seekers’

On rights at work:

3. ‘If we’re honest, most of us would accept that a bad boss is a little bit like a bad father or a bad husband … you find that he tends to do more good than harm. He might be a bad boss but at least he’s employing someone while he is in fact a boss.’

On women:

4. ‘The problem with the Australian practice of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience.’

5. ‘I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons’

6. ‘I think there does need to be give and take on both sides, and this idea that sex is kind of a woman’s right to absolutely withhold, just as the idea that sex is a man’s right to demand I think they are both they both need to be moderated, so to speak’

7. ‘What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing is that if they get it done commercially it’s going to go up in price and their own power bills when they switch the iron on are going to go up, every year…’

On Julia Gillard:

8. ‘Gillard won’t lie down and die’

On climate change:

9. ‘Climate change is absolute crap’

10. ‘If you want to put a price on carbon why not just do it with a simple tax.’

On homosexuality:

11. ‘I’d probably … I feel a bit threatened’

12. ‘If you’d asked me for advice I would have said to have – adopt a sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy about all of these things…’

On Indigenous Australia:

13. ‘Now, I know that there are some Aboriginal people who aren’t happy with Australia Day. For them it remains Invasion Day. I think a better view is the view of Noel Pearson, who has said that Aboriginal people have much to celebrate in this country’s British Heritage’

14. ‘Western civilisation came to this country in 1788 and I’m proud of that…’

15. ‘There may not be a great job for them but whatever there is, they just have to do it, and if it’s picking up rubbish around the community, it just has to be done’

On Nicola Roxon:

16: ‘That’s bullshit. You’re being deliberately unpleasant. I suppose you can’t help yourself, can you?’