Ukraine Readers On The Public Interest

February 27, 2014

By MARCUS BREEN, Professor of Communication and Media, editor of the International Journal of Technology Knowledge and Society, and member of the Institute for Law, Government and Policy.

This week has been momentous for the Ukraine. In Europe – or at its doorstep – live ammunition has been used against protesters, killing perhaps hundreds.And this week, more people than ever in Ukraine read my blog. It was the blog about public broadcasting and the public interest. It is 16 people so far, a tiny number. However the “surge” in readership suggests an interest in the relationship between the state and public broadcasters, between private interests and government.This is the political economy of media.

There are differing sets of questions and concerns:

  • how government media institutions respond to vested interests;
  • how public broadcasters respond to governments;
  • and a third set of interests is what private media companies do.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Attorney-General Learns About The Separation Of Powers

January 16, 2014

By PATRICK KEYZER, Professor of Constitutional Law.

On 18 October last year I tweeted that the Criminal Law Amendment (Public Interest Declarations) Act was unconstitutional.

For those of you who haven’t been following this debate, or haven’t been following it closely, on 17 October 2013 the Newman Government enacted legislation that authorised the Queensland Attorney-General (at present, Jarrod Bleijie), to ask the Governor to make a “public interest declaration” that a sex offender released from detention by the Queensland Supreme Court or the Queensland Court of Appeal should be returned to prison if it was in the public interest to do so.

Just repeating that for emphasis: a politician could have the Governor (who in our tradition of responsible government must act on the advice of that politician) to send a person back to prison when they have been released by a court.

In short: this law would allow a politician to send a person to prison.

Read the rest of this entry »

Amnesty International, Journalism And The Death Penalty

October 22, 2013

By MARK PEARSON, Professor of Journalism and Social Media and member of the Institute for Law, Government and Policy.

The last person officially executed in Australia was Ronald Ryan who was hung in Melbourne more than 40 years ago – on February 3, 1967. The media coverage of the event and its associated protests were enough to pierce my consciousness as a nine-year-old schoolboy and distract my attention from my rock collecting, kite flying, yabbie fishing and marble trading in a small town in central western NSW.

I remember being both fascinated and disturbed by the notion of a government taking someone’s life and I’m sure I asked my parents many difficult questions about both the practicalities and the morality of the event.

It is significant that it happened in a period of history when our national government was routinely issuing a different type of death penalty to a generation of young Australian men in the form of balloted conscription to two years of military service.

The Vietnam War claimed the lives of 521 Australians – many of them conscripts – and injured and scarred the lives of thousands more.

The next public execution of Australians to impact upon me was that of the heroin traffickers Kevin Barlow and Brian Chambers in 1986 who were hung in Malaysia on July 7, 1986.

I was working on The Australian newspaper as a sub-editor and recall vividly some of the graphic coverage and images of the event and the commentary about how primitive it was that a government should carry out such a punishment.

Yet it was only two years earlier – in 1984 – that Western Australia became the last Australian state to abolish the death penalty in this country.

Thankfully we have not seen it return since, but we need to stay vigilant in our efforts to prevent it ever being reintroduced here and to get it abolished elsewhere.

Why? Because the death penalty is still widespread and governments should not have the right to take their citizens’ lives – no matter how serious their crimes.

Amnesty International’s latest report on the judicial use of the death penalty tells us at least 680 people were put to death by governments last year and more than 1700 citizens in 58 countries received a death sentence.

Those figures are conservative, particularly when China deems such information a state secret and Amnesty estimates that at least that number are executed each year in China alone.

Read the rest of this entry »

DisabilityCare Australia ‘Discover’ Guide Now Available

August 1, 2013

Earlier this year, the Institute’s ‘Discover’ Guide was singled out and praised for its utility and value within the framework of the Practical Design Fund. Produced in conjunction with the Endeavour Foundation, the Guide is the primary resource for people with disability, their families and carers, and the disability sector in preparing for the transition to DisabilityCare Australia, the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Extensive information is provided in the resource, as well as Easy-Read sections to facilitate support through all stages of planning.

Copies can be downloaded through the links below, or ordered through the Endeavour Foundation:

Discover Book

Fact Sheets Easy Read

Fact Sheets Parents

© Institute for Law, Government and Policy.

An Analysis Of Home-State Obligations To International Migrants

June 12, 2013

By DR DARREN O’DONOVAN, Director, Open Society Justice Initiative Partnership, Institute for Law, Government and Policy, and KATE BYSTER-BOWLES, CHANTAL McNAUGHT and AMELIA RICHARDSON, Bond Law.

The first of the Institute’s working paper series is out.  As a teaser, here’s an extract on the issues surrounding various obligations owed to migrants by home-states, with a link to the report included below.


This Report argues for greater co-ordinated action within international human rights institutions to encourage diplomatic protection as a supplementary mode of human rights implementation and enforcement. This report underlines that diplomatic protection involves more than basic consular assistance, but rather can be broadly defined as any action taken by a State in response to internationally wrongful acts against its nationals while abroad. This includes a traditional category of action – underappreciated within international human rights law – the espousal of claims, whereby a home state can take action for redress, political, administrative or legal, on behalf of its citizen. While the international bill of human rights, in protecting the individual rather than the citizen, purports to offer migrants equal rights as nationals, it is simply a reality that migrants continue to lack accessible and effective mechanism for remedying violations of their rights at international level. Diplomatic Protection represents one of the ways in which states can ensure the effective implementation of Treaty commitments they are parties to, in particular it bears upon the obligation to co-operate with other States to prevent violations and the individual’s right to an effective remedy. This Report considers whether the long established discretion of home state governments to take action can, in certain circumstances, be construed as an obligation to take action.

To view the full report, click this link:

An Analysis Of Home-State Obligations To International Migrants

©  Institute for Law, Government and Policy 2013

Stalemate: Chen and Assange, Diplomatic Asylum and International Law

August 7, 2012

By DARREN O’DONOVAN, Assistant Professor of Law and Director of The Open Society Justice Initiative Partnership, Institute for Law, Government and Policy

The story of diplomatic asylum is a long and chequered one. Its legal status is controversial, but its political reality long established.

  • For example, there is the story of Hungarian Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty who sought asylum in the US embassy as Soviet Tanks arrived in November 1956. He did not leave for 15 years, until a Vatican, Soviet bloc and US agreement allowed for his departure from the country. Read the rest of this entry »

High Court Challenge Over Mental Health Laws

July 31, 2012

Two intellectually disabled men who’ve spent several years in an Alice Springs jail without conviction are about to be freed, following Lateline’s report on 30 July 2012. Their lawyers say there are over 100 people in custody because governments don’t want to pay for mental health facilities. Professor Patrick Keyzer, Bond University, is part of the legal team undertaking the High Court challenge to the Northern Territory laws. In his interview with Lateline, Professor Keyzer says it’s outrageous that a country as wealthy as Australia is engaging in the practice of indefinitely detaining people in jail who have not been convicted of a crime. A constitutional challenge will be lodged in the coming weeks and could affect all states and territories.