ALRC Brief | December 2011

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Welcome to the third edition of the ALRC Brief – a publication distributed by email and on the website, to keep our friends and stakeholders apprised of news and developments at the ALRC. This is the final edition for 2011.

From the President’s desk

This is the final ALRC Brief for 2011. It has been a massive year for the ALRC—we’ve completed two inquiries, Discovery of Documents in Federal Courts and Commonwealth Laws and Family Violence, released two Discussion Papers and five Issues Papers, moved offices, and been the subject of a major review by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Reference Committee. I am extremely happy to report that we are still standing! Our energy and commitment are as strong as ever. And the support and engagement of our stakeholders and the community in general are expanding—we received a record number of submissions to the Classification Inquiry and significant input through our online blogs, through twitter and inquiry e-newsletters.

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has taken the time to engage with our inquiries and our processes— through preparing formal submissions, by participating in consultations, being part of our expert panels and advisory committees, and by communicating your views to us through our online communication tools. It is this lively, robust and informed input that is the lifeblood of the law reform process. We could not undertake our inquiries, with such confidence in our processes and findings, without this community input. So again, thank you to you all.  I look forward to continuing our conversations and debates over the next year.

In the meantime, on behalf of all at the ALRC, I take this opportunity to give you our warmest greetings for the season and to wish you a safe and happy new year.

Current inquiries update

On 30 November, the Family Violence and Commonwealth Laws inquiry team delivered its Final Report to the Attorney-General. Under the ALRC Act, the Government now has 15 Parliamentary sitting days in which to table the Report. Until then, the Report is under embargo. In accordance with the practice we established in 2010, we have also produced a short Summary Report that sets out the ALRC’s recommendations and approach to reform to give quick access to the Report. Once these publications have been tabled, they will be free to view or download from the website and available to purchase in hard copy.

The ALRC will also release a series of short fact sheets, designed to provide practical examples illustrating how our recommendations, if implemented by government, might affect various parts of our community, for example people with disability, indigenous peoples; the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community; and culturally and linguistically diverse groups. These fact sheets will also be available to view or download from the ALRC website.

The Classification Review team, led by Commissioner in Charge, Professor Terry Flew, has been extremely busy these last few months and since releasing the Discussion Paper in September, we have: received over 70 submissions; conducted further consultations in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Brisbane; hosted a public consultation blog; and undertaken—with the support of the Classification Branch—a pilot study of community attitudes to higher level media content. We have also now held two Advisory Committee meetings for this inquiry and are working towards producing the Final Report by the end of February.

Earlier in the year, the Attorney-General announced an upcoming inquiry for the ALRC, a review of Australian copyright law. And on 9 December the Attorney-General also announced that the ALRC will undertake a review of federal legislation to identify provisions that create barriers to older people participating in productive work. The Terms or Reference for both inquiries are yet to be finalised, but we anticipate receiving them in early 2012.

Kirby Cup winners

Tyler Fox and Melchor Inigo Raval hold the Kirby Cup, with the Hon Michael KirbyCongratulations to the joint winners of the 2011 Kirby Cup, Tyler Fox, from the University of Newcastle, and Melchor Inigo Raval, from Monash University.

Tyler Fox is studying a Bachelor of Laws and his winning entry, Breaking the Internet, examined the current laws in Australia particularly as they pertain to copyright and privacy and canvassed a number of possible law reform responses to the problems raised. Melchor Raval is a student in the School of Business Law and Taxation and his winning entry used Australian case studies, in particular of gaming, and focused on international law and comparisons.

Both winners met the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG at a small function at the ALRC on 6 December, when they were presented with their certificates. Their names are now inscribed on the perpetual ‘Kirby Cup’ that is kept on display at the offices of the ALRC—a record of all past winners of this prestigious law reform competition.

The ALRC thanks all students who submitted entries to the Kirby Cup in 2011. We appreciate the significant research and writing that goes into each piece, on top of an already demanding university schedule. The Kirby Cup is one way that the ALRC provides insight to law students across Australia into the processes of law reform and our inquiries.

The new topic for the Kirby Cup in 2012 will be announced in the next ALRC Brief, in 2012.

Kirby AC CMG—Emeritus Chairman

As a particular mark of respect, admiration and affection, the ALRC proudly conferred on Michael Kirby the honorary title of ‘Chairman Emeritus’, acknowledging his role as inaugural Chairman of the ALRC, from 1975 to 1984. This is the first time in the ALRC’s 36-year history that such an honour has been conferred.  The gathering of ALRC colleagues, Kirby Cup recipients and their families was an ideal occasion to present Kirby with his testamur, adding to his astonishing collection of honorary degrees and other prestigious awards.

ALRC staff with Inaugural Chairman, the Hon Michael Kirby

Left to right: Sabina Wynn, Michele Reddy, Marie-Claire Muir, Justine Clarke, Khanh Hoang, Professor Rosalind Croucher, Professor Terry Flew, the Hon Michael Kirby, Jared Boorer, Amanda Alford, Maria Zacharia, Bruce Alston, Tina O’Brien, Trisha Manning.

Reform roundup

The big news in recent months, in terms of ALRC-related law reform, was the issue of the Australian Government’s formal response to the ALRC’s Final Report (tabled August 2004) for its inquiry into gene patenting, Genes and Ingenuity: Gene patenting and human health (ALRC Report 99), on 23 November 2011.

The Government’s response addresses recommendations from three reports: the 2010 Senate Community Affairs Committee’s report on Gene Patents, the 2011 Advisory Council on Intellectual Property’s report on Patentable Subject Matter, and the ALRC Report 99. The response accepts the majority of the recommendations in all three reports, including the ALRC’s recommendation to introduce a statutory research exemption into the Patents Act 1990

Intern program

2012 calendar


Intern period

Closing date for applications

Semester 1 (part time)

2 April – 8 June (1 day a week)

10 Feb

Semester 2 (part-time)

27 August – 2 Nov (1 day a week)

6 July

Summer 2013 (full-time)*

3 week period between either:

·         14 Jan – 1 Feb; or

·         4 Feb – 22 Feb

26 October

 The ALRC recognises that participating in the Semesters 1 and 2 one day per week programs is not feasible for interstate students. For that reason, the ALRC will give preference to interstate applicants for the full time three week summer program.

Incoming interns

In the recent round of applications for the internship program, the ALRC received a record 128 applications. In the new year, the five successful applicants will be working with ALRC legal officers on the upcoming Copyright and Age Discrimination Inquiries. They are:

  • Emille Boulot– is in her penultimate year of study in a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Science double degree at Monash University. She has completed an Aurora Internship with the Carpentaria Land Council Aboriginal Corporation in Cairns. She is also a founder of the Progressive Law Network
  • Brooke Greenwood–  is in the penultimate year of a combined Bachelor of Law and Arts degree at the Australian National University. In recent years she held the positions of Research Assistant for Laura Beecroft, Research Manager Australian Institute of Criminology, and Non-Indigenous Co-Convenor of ReconciliACT.
  • Ellenor Hayes– completed a Bachelor of Communication in 2009 and is in her final year of a Bachelor of Laws at the University of Newcastle. She volunteers as a paralegal at the University of Newcastle Legal Centre.
  • Riki Sutherland– completed his Juris Doctor at the Australian National University in July 2011. He is currently Associate to Justice Penfold of the ACT Supreme Court, and is completing a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice.
  • Scott McIntosh– is in his second year at Harvard Law School. He has been a Public Corruption and Special Prosecutions Unit intern with the United States Attorney’s Office, as well as a legal intern at the International Justice Mission.

‘Ex-terns’ Adam Arnold and Sean Lau – interns on the National Classification Review

Adam Arnold and Sean Lau, both students at UNSW, were two of our interns over the August-November period. Before leaving us, we spoke with them about their experiences as ALRC interns, and working on the National Classification Review.

Listen to audio >>

Read Transcript >>

The law reform process

To assist our various communities to gain a better understanding of the ways that the ALRC goes about inquiry work, we have added to our website a description of the law reform process. Speaking with intern applicants, inquiry stakeholders, journalists, and even government officers, we’ve realised that there is sometimes a lack of understanding about the law reform process, and the ALRC’s specific inquiry framework.

The process for each law reform project may differ according to the scope of the inquiry, the range of key stakeholders, the complexity of the laws under review and the period of time allotted for the Inquiry. While the exact procedure needs to be tailored to suit each field of inquiry, the ALRC usually works within this framework when it develops recommendations for reform.

Vale Robert Alexander Hayes (1942-2011)

On 20 November 2011, Dr Robert Alexander Hayes, a former Commissioner of the ALRC, passed away in Sydney after a long illness.

Robert Hayes was an Associate Professor of Law at UWS and UNSW and was a much admired law teacher. In 1971 Robert played an important role in the creation of the Law School at the University of New South Wales, and helped to change institutional thinking about teaching law. The faculty created by Robert Hayes and Professor Hal Wootten championed small-class teaching in the Socratic model and enforced student participation. They designed a very wide range of electives and extra-curricular involvement; worked to bring in Indigenous students; to serve the needs of part-time students; and to involve all students beyond their classes. 

Of his teaching style, Professor AJ Brown of Griffith University, one of his former students, remarked in an obituary, that

“Hayes was popular for his humour, style and directness.  He confronted career-hungry students with the reality that conflicts over the rights and duties of citizens were often sordid and tragic, and rarely glamorous.  His torts lectures began with stories of children being packed off to school by their mother, with fresh egg-and-lettuce sandwiches in their bags, only to be mown down by a negligent driver or crushed by a falling building: ‘terrible… imagine it… egg and lettuce everywhere.’”

Another of Robert Hayes’ great achievements was his work at the ALRC on the right to privacy. Robert was a full-time Commissioner with the ALRC between 1980 –1983, and was a principal author of the 1983 report on Privacy. He was also Commissioner in Charge of the inquiry on Insurance agents, brokers and contracts.

During the same period, Robert was arbitrating in relation to the rights of the disabled, particularly the intellectually disabled and the mentally ill. He was involved in numerous community services programs including the Intellectual Disability Rights Service and was Chair of the Management Committee of Charmian Clift Cottages, a residential programme for mothers with mental illness and their children, supporting women suffering from schizophrenia.

Dr. Hayes was a fellow of the Australian Institute of Forensic Sciences and former president of the NSW Mental Health Review Tribunal.

A funeral service for Dr Hayes was held in a jam-packed St James Church, Sydney, on 25 November. Moving tributes were given by Stuart Littlemore QC and Sue-Ellen Bullock, and by his widow Elayne and daughter Claudia. Stuart Littlemore concluded his eulogy fittingly, in saying:

“The great success of Robert Alexander Hayes – his triumph – was that, right to the end, he had causes that he believed in. Not too many lawyers can lay claim to that.”

Vale Robert