August 9, 2006

Petro Georgiou’s speech on the Migration Bill

Posted in politics, refugees at 7:09 am by thelawthoughts

The Australian runs the full text of Petro Georgiou’s speech to Parliament today on the Migration reforms proposed by our government.

Please, people, read it. I promise it is worth it, if only to be shocked at how far these reforms really do go.

Petro, you are a good, good man.

Non-Law Stuff

Posted in politics at 6:18 am by thelawthoughts

I’ll get my political gripes out of the way for today in one hit. So:

1. We are sending more troops to Afghanistan. Very convenient timing. Remind people of the TERRORISTS and how much we need to ensure SECURITY when they start complaining about land rights and asylum legislation, and of course interest rates and oil prices. Which leads me to:

2. Despite the recent rate hike (and I mean the first one, not the one the other day), debt levels and housing loan numbers are going up. Alarmingly, the number of loans for investment properties went up 4.5%. People, people, people, DON’T complain about rising oil prices and interest rates if you are going to keep borrowing at the same time. Investment is not a necessity, the whole point of rate rises is to make you think ‘Hmm, maybe I won’t spend this money’. It is not about a bunch of nasty men in suits making you spend an extra .25% when you buy that investment property you ‘simply must have’.

Basically, as soon as people stop spending so much money, interest rates will stop going up.

Latest on the Asylum changes (updated)

Posted in politics, refugees at 12:52 am by thelawthoughts

Well, not that I have any news the ABC doesn’t.

However, some quick observations. Backbenchers are not taking the moral high ground? No, they are ‘looking at us from the ditch’. Get real, Mr. Thompson.

Good on Petro. If you are going to spend 10 years in Parliament doing nothing, this is as good a law as you could get to stand up against.

Good on you Barny. Instead of dismissing backbench protests, Uncle Barnaby is prepared to listen. He says ‘I think the people who advocate the position for greater breadth in the asylum laws are not moral bankrupts, nor are they stupid people…I think they have a valid position and you should give them the dignity of listening to them.”

Well, yeah. Newsflash, John Winston. If you try and pass crap, badly thought out, morally bankrupt laws which flout your international obligations, without listening to protest from within your party, you get floor-crossers. This is not a case of a few people holding the party hostage. It is a case of not taking into account the view of the party room in a democratic way. They keep saying what they are saying; their position is not new.

Migration laws in this country are about as tight as they ever need to be. It is not as if the country is baying for more restrictions on migrants. So, the latest backbench revolt cannot even be quelled by the argument that these laws are politically expedient. My argument would be that the tighter the law gets, the more angry the electorate is getting.

UPDATE: Charles Richardson, in today’s Crikey.com newsletter, argues as follows:

“[P]erhaps it’s time to turn the spotlight the other way, and look at the 120-odd Coalition MPs and senators who are going to vote for the legislation. Instead of asking “why are there dissidents?”, we should be asking “why are there so few of them?”.

After all, this legislation proposes to tear up Australia’s international obligations more comprehensively than anything that was done in the immediate post-Tampa period. And at that time the government had the excuse of a number of refugee boats arriving in a short period, plus desperate political imperatives at home.

Now it has neither. Moreover, the legislation was transparently drafted in response to Indonesian pressure – normally not a vote-winner in either the party room or the electorate.”

August 3, 2006

Israel and Lebanon

Posted in international law, politics, terrorism, UN at 1:28 am by thelawthoughts

I know virtually nothing about the current conflict, apart from the fact it is happening. However, the question that strikes me first is the following:

How can we, as an international community, stand by and let the US support the actions of a country that makes no attempt to prevent civilian casualties in such a conflict?

That is, whilst the US is the most powerful country in the world, surely the rest of the world has enough guts to say ‘Look, you can’t support a regime that bombs and kills children whilst pretending they are seeking military targets’.

Am I the only one thinking that?

June 30, 2006

David Hicks and Illegal Commission

Posted in criminal law, international law, politics, terrorism, war crimes at 12:29 am by thelawthoughts

I am going to put this post up before I go so that it will stay on top for the 5 weeks I am gone. Warning, this is a rant.

The world woke today to the news that the US Military Commissions the American governments was going to use to try ‘illegal combatants’ are illegal. Thank goodness.

I wasn’t even going to blog this, because the coverage is so much more insightful and useful elsewhere (see Opinio Juris and SCOTUS Blog eg), but what really pisses me off is our government’s reaction.

David Hicks MUST BE TRIED NO MATTER WHAT. He has been held without trial for four years now. When are they going to GET ON WITH IT? The treatment of David Hicks by the US Government and our own government’s pathetic response quite astounds me. They should be demanding a trial now, or else a return of David Hicks to Australia so he can be tried by us. Or send him to the ICC or SOMETHING, but GET ON WITH IT. If he is guilty, so be it, lock him up. If not, he should be on the first plane home, a free man.

Yes, we go nuts trying to get prisoner exchange agreements for poor Schapelle Corby and the Bali Nine, but we won’t go into bat for a bloke who has been taken out of the jurisdiction in which he was found, placed in detention in conditions likened to a Soviet gulag, and left by our government to rot, despite the fact that other allies have demanded their nationals be returned to their jurisdiction. Saudis and Yemenis have been allowed home, but not Australians.

Why? Our government is more worried about posturing and pandering than the rule of law. And when governments ditch the rule of law, mark my words, bad things happen. Like torture, like people being held incommunicado, like interrogation without the presence of lawyers.

Short of the genocide, kind of sounds like Iraq under Saddam Hussein, really.

June 27, 2006

Blair Losing His Way?

Posted in politics at 1:06 pm by thelawthoughts

This is nothing but a simple excuse for me to say ‘I hope so’. Is Tony Blair losing his sense of purpose and direction?

I hope so, because I have money on him at tradesports.com to resign by December this year.

June 26, 2006

Digital Libraries

Posted in copyright, EU, fair use, globalisation, internet law, politics at 3:39 am by thelawthoughts

The EU is establishing a digital library, with cooperation from museums and libraries around Europe.

I am interested in the difference in reaction between this and Google's attempt. I have never even heard of the EU effort in the media. Why don't Europeans care? Why do Americans care so much?

I'm tempted to put it down to a European-sharing stereotype, which is interested in shared culture and cultural heritage, versus an American individual-centred protection of wealth regime.

It must be more than that, but I just can't see it.

Article 98 Agreements

Posted in criminal law, international law, politics, terrorism, UN, war crimes at 12:48 am by thelawthoughts

Opinio Juris notes that the US might be reconsidering its position on bilateral immunity agreements, whereby the US forces smaller countries to agree not to surrender US nationals to the ICC.

This would be great news. I argued in an essay that the agreements were illegal at international law, on three grounds, two relatively weak and one I believed quite strong. The weak grounds were that the agreements defeat the object and purpose of the statute, which is a weak argument because this ground of objection ceases to have effect once a country ratifies the treaty. Therefore, the more countries ratify, the less countries there are for this doctrine to operate between.

The other weak ground was that of universal jurisdiction, which is the idea that the ICC has universal jurisdiction over the crimes prosecuted under the Rome Statute, assuming their status as jus cogens offences at international law. I hope that this argument becomes stronger in future, because I firmly agree with Geoffrey Robertson's argument that no rogue leader will think twice about committing war crimes until there is a credible threat of their prosecution.

The strongest argument for the illegality was that an interpretation of Article 98 which allowed these agreements to be in force was not the intended interpretation of the treaty signatories. In effect, States are prohibited from acting in a way not contemplated by the drafters of the treaty, and I did not believe that agreements which allowed a State to circumvent the entire operation of the court were intended to be legal under the Rome Statute.

All this is nice in theory, but unless the US supports the ICC and allows its nationals to be prosecuted along with all others, it will lack legitimacy. I have noted this week the coming trial of Charles Taylor, which is great. However, whether these agreements are illegal or not, the US will use them and abide by them, and force others to also, until they decide not to.

This, of course, is the problem of powerful states in areas of international law in which they do not wish to be bound. A visionary US would realise that its interests are best served by having a legitimate international court in which to try alleged war criminals, rather than the kangaroo courts they have set up domestically.

Ramos Horta Resigns

Posted in politics, UN at 12:31 am by thelawthoughts

Jose Ramos Horta has resigned as Foreign Minister for East Timor.

Maybe he is going to have a tilt at the UN Secretary General's position after all? FWIW, having heard the man speak a few times, he is intelligent and deeply caring about the problems of the world. I think he would make an excellent head of the UN.

June 23, 2006

Sign Me Up

Posted in law reform, politics, privacy at 3:30 am by thelawthoughts

The Do Not Call Register Bill 2006 has been passed. Send me the forms and I will sign them right now.

With previously unseen hilarity, Stephen Fielding has started to make automated phone calls, because politicians are exempt from the legislation. His opposition to such an exemption is well noted (here eg) and, although I can't find the link now, his phone call goes something like: 'This is Stephen Fielding and I am calling you because I can, because politicians are exempt from the new Do Not Call Register'.

June 22, 2006

Tonight’s 7.30 Report (updated)

Posted in politics at 9:38 am by thelawthoughts

I got up from the couch to write this post, because I was so shocked and amazed at the behaviour of some Parliamentarians today.

Mal Brough, the Indigenous Affairs Minister, was discussing in Parliament the coming national summit on Aboriginal welfare, in light of the shocking allegations of abuse, specifically the trading of petrol for sex, in some communities.

Can somebody tell me who the clowns sitting on the backbenches were? Two gits who probably have no idea what of the problems the Minister was discussing were sitting there giggling to each other like schoolkids. Who were they?

One would think politicians would have more political nous.

June 21, 2006

Voting ages

Posted in election law, politics at 9:42 am by thelawthoughts

There is some discussion going on in NSW about lowering the voting age to 16.

I see this kind of inquiry as the a constantly recurring one that, really, doesn't make much difference to anything. Forgive me, but we can have discussions about maturity and capacity to make decisions until the cows come home. We could make the voting age 12 and there would be little difference. We are all vulnerable to political incentives, whether 12 or 50.

The voting age is one of those laws that just isn't worth the time and effort changing.

Does this mean we trust little kids to make sensible electoral decisions about who is best equipped to run a country, potentially who is best able to prevent terrorist attacks, or who will best protect their parents' prosperity, but we won't let them have a beer in the pub?

That's what it sounds like to me. 

The Gay Disease

Posted in discrimination, politics at 9:35 am by thelawthoughts

Right on top of things at the Pentagon, they are. Yes, their classification of mental disorders, which was re-certified as late as 2003, still classes homosexuality as a mental disorder.

Right. 

Father Abbott

Posted in politics at 8:34 am by thelawthoughts

Tony Abbott thinks they best way to overturn the impact of centuries of paternalism is, well, more paternalism.

Possibly, if we didn't treat our indigenous populations like dirt for so long, we wouldn't even be considering the need for 'administrators' to run their lives for them.

Just another happy chapter in white man's relationship with Aborigines. 

June 16, 2006

EU Constitution

Posted in constitution, EU, globalisation, law reform, politics at 7:16 am by thelawthoughts

Why can't the EU leaders work it out?

Yes, it is probably a good idea for the EU to have a constitutional document. Yes, it is probably in the interests of the EU to centralise lots of Executive functions.

However, the lack of explanation being provided, and the seeming lack of connection between the Executive, the European Parliament, and people on the street means that a Constitution will never be passed as the current requirements stand.

In a union of 25 members, who ALL must pass the Constitution, whether in Parliament or by referendum, it takes a hell of a lot of explaining by political leaders before people on the street are willing to concede power over taxes, criminal law and defence policy to some ethereal EU Parliament and even worse, some back-room EU Commission.

The leaders might be all friends, but they need to remember, they are asking Poles to allow Germans to run their defence; ex-Soviet satellites to give up their new found independence and the UK to allow taxes to be raised elsewhere, when they won't even join the Euro.

It is just not going to happen. 

Raining Bananas?

Posted in free trade, globalisation, politics at 7:10 am by thelawthoughts

Following on from my post about Mirko and his lost bananas, Joshua Gans reports that relief might be in sight.

More bananas for everyone, and stuff the voters in Queensland.  only a few lost votes in sight.

Good news, hey Mirko! 

June 15, 2006

Serbian Recognition

Posted in international law, politics at 1:58 pm by thelawthoughts

Serbia has recognised the government of Montenegro and established diplomatic ties.

My partner's brother has just been to Sarajevo and showed me the photos of the military cemeterys there. It is quite incredible, and these steps towards healing, as well as independence, as so much more monumental than people realise.

Wonderful stuff.

Senate Denies ACT Marriage Laws (updated)

Posted in discrimination, law reform, politics at 5:50 am by thelawthoughts

The Senate has disallowed the ACT's controversial same-sex marriage laws, despite Gary Humprhies crossing the floor.

This is, of course, the latest round in John Howard's attempt to stamp out 'genuine discrimination' against homosexuals.

UPDATED: Andrew Bartlett's speech on the motion here.

Mirko Wants Bananas

Posted in free trade, globalisation, politics at 1:18 am by thelawthoughts

I'm fair, I'll give credit where it is due. Mirko Bagaric's piece this week discusses the inequity of global trade through the prism of his lack of bananas.

He is right, there is plenty of everything in the world, we just won't let people sell it. I remember hearing John Ralston Saul speak last year, and he said that global welfare is lacking because of dysfunctional distribution, not the lack of ability to actually produce.

He used the example of socks. The world has so many socks we can buy 200 pairs on eBay for $100. Trust me, I almost did. However, we daily see people in Africa with no socks. The problem is not producing this stuff, it is getting it where it is needed.

Governments provide as many barriers as they can to this distribution process, exactly as Bagaric describes. Why would our government let foreign banana producers gain a toehold in our market, when there are no votes coming in from Ecuador? See, the myth of free trade is that the banana producers sending us stuff for a lower price makes our domestic producers sit up and think – 'gee, I can't compete on bananas anymore, I better make a higher value product than simply pulling something off a tree'.

If we let that happen more, we would probably be much better off. However, most of the time that is not what happens. We protect our domestic producers. Third world countries have a busted economy.

Points to anybody who can jog my memory. Who gives more subsidies to domestic producers than foreign aid? I think I read it was the EU, but it is probably almost every rich nation. Why not scrap the subsidies, get cheap product from overseas, and use the money to train people into better situations? Isn't that how things are meant to work?

June 12, 2006

The John Howard Blog

Posted in blogging, politics, satire at 9:25 am by thelawthoughts

Love him or hate him, you have to read the PM's blog.

I never knew The Honourable was so funny! 

June 11, 2006

Abolishing AWAs

Posted in industrial relations, politics at 3:34 am by thelawthoughts

Kim Beazley has announced that a Labor government will abolish AWAs.

While I am not a fan of the way AWAs are being used by the current government, what is the alternative being proposed by Beazley?

If he has one, he should tell us about it. If he doesn't have one, he leaves himself open to accusations of being just as ideological as the current government.

Beazley won't replace AWAs with another form of statutory individual contract. So, how does he proposed employment agreements be regulated?

June 9, 2006

Hypocritical Murder

Posted in criminal law, murder, politics, terrorism at 9:11 am by thelawthoughts

Can somebody tell me why it is ok for the American military to murder people, but it is not ok for those same people to murder people? Why is nobody reporting the irony in George Bush's comments, which ran something like 'this violent man will murder no more'?

Now, I am not pro-terrorist and I don't care about numbers or scale. Zarqawi was an animal, I am sure. What I can't stand is a group of people getting up and saying that by their own murder, they have acted virtuously in preventing the murder of others. Why should governments be able to assassinate people, then blow up their photo on CNN and denounce them as murderers?

Murder is murder, regardless of which person commits it. I would even argue that state organised and sponsored killing is much worse than murder by a private citizen.

New Politician Blog

Posted in blogging, politics at 5:07 am by thelawthoughts

The Hon Penny Sharpe MLC, an Upper House member for NSW, has started a blog here.

Everybody should get behind politicians that start blogs, so that more of them will do it. And I mean genuine, grass roots contact kinds of blogs. This one by Malcolm Turnbull is fairly average, but at least it is out and about.

The more pollies get blogging, the more they hear you. The end result should be that a more genuinely representative and responsive democracy is created. No? 

Captain Copyright

Posted in copyright, marketing, politics at 4:50 am by thelawthoughts

The IPKat put a link up the other day to a new superhero called Captain Copyright. Take a few minutes to have a look through this website and come back.

Done? Did you see the 'Story of Captain Copyright' comic? If you didn't, the superhero, wrote a comic when he was a child. The big bad 6th grade bully stole it, then sold it to everybody in the school corridor. Captain Copyright has dedicated his life to not letting the bullies win.

I think depicting people who use the work of others in this way is incredibly dangerous. They have exercises in the teachers section for 1st graders (6 year olds?). Stuffing this kind of propaganda down the throats of impressionable children is wildly irresponisble.

The concept was created because there was a gap in the ability to teach kids how copyright works. Even if you are in favour of copyright, it is terrible to present the ideas in such a slanted way. Yes, the infringer in this case was in the wrong. However, the loaded associations with bullies and rip off merchants is simply not fair. To associate infringers with bullies means that kids growing up with this stuff will not in future come to the concept with an open mind to decide what is best for society in terms of the balance of copyright.

I must admit, however, this is an incredibly visionary campaign from whoever thought it up.

June 8, 2006

The Lying Big V

Posted in criminal law, politics at 5:26 pm by thelawthoughts

As a lawyer, who in their right mind would tell the media that a statement of agreed facts they handed up to the Federal Court was just something they said so that the problem would go away?
<!–[endif]–>

<!–[if !supportEmptyParas]–>Now, Steve Vizard is in the spotlight for a possible perjury prosecution. It is not like he said something in court before the police found a document on his hard drive which contradicted his evidence. He contradicted his own evidence in the Magistrates Court via a court document to be handed up in the Federal Court! <!–[endif]–>

If I were his lawyer, I would be checking seek.com.au for a new job and my professional indemnity insurance. What a great response. ‘Oh, yeah, that…We were just blowing smoke up your arse there, Your Honour. We didn’t really expect you to take those as facts, more, just, um, well, goodbye.’ [door slamming…sound of lawyer running].

How pissed off would the judge be?

Stop Pretending

Posted in discrimination, politics at 5:20 pm by thelawthoughts

Just a quick note to John Howard, who, whilst probably better at running a country than me, remains a git.

If you are going to have convictions, don’t pretend to the electing public that you can reconcile your convictions with what is the ‘politically correct’ thing to say. If you want to remove discrimination against homosexuals, don’t then turn around and say their relationships are less real, important, valued, legitimate [insert correct adjective here] than that of a man and a woman.

It is like saying ‘I don’t hate Aborigines but doesn’t it suck that they can get access to the same welfare benefits as white people’.

Centralised Water Management

Posted in constitution, federalism, politics, water at 8:45 am by thelawthoughts

Although Malcolm Turnbull hosed down suggestions that water management might be taken over by the Commonwealth government, why would this be such a bad idea? Even if limited to major water systems that cross state borders, I can't see why it is a bad thing for a central agency to determine the best way to manage water in this country.

Western US states like Utah, New Mexico and Colorado have terrible problems because they all assert rights over the one river, which of course is diverted upstream by those states through which the river runs first. This is inevitable, regardless of any agreement that might be reached and results in lower states being without enough water.

If states didn't control the distribution of the water in major river systems, to some extent these problems could be reduced. States should not need to fight each other to assert their water rights. If water really is a resource for us all, then its management and oversight should be centralised. 

The problem becomes more difficult when dams and power stations, rather than just rivers, are involved. However, I don't think the states were putting up a fight against privitisation, it was a populist reaction that caused the sale to fall through. The decision to privatise an asset like this would have been passed by the current Federal government if not for that movement, but the states would equally have been happy to see the sale go through.

If the point of having states is to ensure there is adequate discussion and opposition to moves like this from the central government, the question becomes whether the states actually have any power to provide that opposition. VSU, IR laws and terrorism laws have all been pushed through recently by a central government which has had the backing of state governments, even though one might expect the natural positions of said state governments would be opposed to the legislation being passed.

US Gay Marriage Follow Up

Posted in constitution, politics at 7:55 am by thelawthoughts

The first serious shots were fired in the gay marriage constitutional amendment debate. The President was blocked in the US Senate from beginning proceedings to amend the Constitution.

He is not fazed, though. He recognises it often takes a few tries to get these kinds of things through. Why not just get on with running the country? Crazy Iranians are playing with their uranium toys, why not deal with them?

I know this is a political issue which plays well with his base. But at what point does a person become a leader and deal with the things that are important to world security and wellbeing, rather than pandering to people who found their beliefs staunchly on religion?

I also know that this is really important to President Bush. He genuinely cares about this, as does our own PM. Still, there are some personal crusades that simply do not need to be waged whilst more important things are going on.

Refugee Detention Legislation

Posted in politics, refugees at 7:45 am by thelawthoughts

Andrew Bartlett, as usual, provides a comprehensive inside view of the possible defeat of the newest piece of keep them out legislation.

It is interesting to note that finally cracks are starting to appear in the Howard government. Pieces of legislation are being put back because of backbench murmurings. Privatisations are put on hold. The winds are changing?

June 4, 2006

Gay Marriage in America

Posted in constitution, politics at 1:45 pm by thelawthoughts

Being a country that supposedly values freedom above all other values, the United States sounds utterly hypocritical when its President spouts ideas such as a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. To amend the Constitution is a HUGE deal. Australia has done it 8 times in over 100 years and the US has made 27 in the history of the country, and only 3 since 1967.

Whose freedom is important to Americans? Everybody’s, or just ‘my own’? How can a country based on liberty tell people with a straight face that they can’t marry whoever they damn well want?

Now, I know this is a political move that probably won’t go anywhere. Further, I know that people will say they aren’t telling people who they can and can’t have a relationship with, but I don’t believe such assertions. It is all about trying to oppress people in such relationships.

I find it incredible that the conservative base will get revved up by this. Is this a tactic like the Republicans used at the last election, where they put these kind of Propositions on ballot papers to ensure conservatives voted, or do they really believe this crap?