ALRC Brief | December 2015

Message from the President

It’s been another exciting and busy year at the ALRC. Mid year saw the tabling of Connection to Country: Review of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth), the final report for the Native Title Inquiry led by Professor Lee Godden of the University of Melbourne, with an official launch on 29 June 2015. In September and October, on the back of the Freedoms Interim Report, we traversed the country—from Brisbane, to Adelaide, to Perth and Melbourne, then back to Sydney—for a national series of discussions on  the current Freedoms Inquiry. By the end of this month, we will deliver the Freedoms final report to the Attorney-General. In the midst of all this, in July we welcomed a new part-time Commissioner, Emeritus Professor Suri Ratnapala of the University of Queensland, to assist with the Freedoms Inquiry; my own appointment as President was extended for another three years; and just last week the terms of our existing part-time Commissioners, the Hon Justice John Middleton and the Hon Justice Nye Perram, were extended for a further year.

2015 has been a milestone year, marking as it does the ALRC’s 40th anniversary—which we celebrated at the Federal Court with Attorney-General Senator the Hon George Brandis QC; inaugural ALRC Chairman, the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG; the Hon Chief Justice Robert French AC; and commissioners, staff, stakeholders and friends spanning 40 years. To all of these, and to all of you, I thank you on behalf of the ALRC for your contributions to law reform and your continued interest in our work. Together we can ‘fan the flame of ideas’, to quote Michael Kirby.

I would especially like to thank and acknowledge the wonderful staff at the ALRC. Their intellect, collegiality and commitment are a source of pride and inspiration, and I am thrilled to embark on another three years of law reform with them.

A peaceful and happy Christmas to all!

40th anniversary celebration

On 23 October 2015 the ALRC celebrated its 40th anniversary at an event in the Federal Court, where it also launched the ‘40 Years of Law Reform timeline’. A video of launch highlights, transcripts of speeches and a selection of photographs are now available online.

Inquiry update

The ALRC Freedoms Inquiry is in its final stages and the team will deliver the Report to the Attorney-General in the next couple of weeks. Once it has been tabled and is publicly available, we will notify people via the Freedoms Inquiry enews and the report will be freely available on the ALRC website. You can follow and join conversations about the Freedoms Inquiry on Twitter using the hashtag #ALRCfreedoms.

Reappointment of part-time Commissioners

The ALRC is delighted that the Hon Justice John Middleton and the Hon Justice Nye Perram have been reappointed for another 12 months as part-time Commissioners of the ALRC, commencing 28 November 2015. This year Justice Perram made a special contribution to the Native Title Inquiry and as Chair of the Audit Committee, and Justice Middleton has provided valuable assistance to the Freedoms Inquiry and as Chair of the Melbourne Freedoms Symposium. The ALRC looks forward to the continued outstanding contribution of the part-time Commissioners to the ALRC’s work in 2016.

Justice Connections 4 – Institutional Law Reform and Justice

On 20 November 2015, ALRC President, Professor Rosalind Croucher AM and Director of Law Reform and Social Justice at ANU College of Law, Professor Simon Rice OAM, presented a session at Justice Connections 4, hosted by the University of Canberra and the ANU. They discussed the contribution that an independent law reform commission can have towards justice—as an idea and in practice. They provide a critical account of the politics and practice of institutional law reform, the distinct role of the ALRC in the context of the many sites in which law reform happens and assess its impact through a broad lens.

Listen >>

Reform round-up

Classification—Content Regulation and Convergent Media (ALRC Report 118)

On 10 November 2015, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) announced its agreement to register a new Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice, submitted by Free TV, the industry group representing commercial free-to-air broadcasters.

The new code represents a move to less restrictive time zones. This is consistent with changes to the media environment and the outcomes of the ALRC’s Classification Review, which found that time zone restrictions on free-to-air television are becoming less relevant.

On 11 September 2015, the Hon Michael Keenan, Minister for Justice, announced new classification exemption arrangements for festivals and special events. This is consistent with Rec 6-3 in ALRC Report 118.

Family Violence—A National Legal Response (ALRC Report 114)

In August 2015, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the Queensland Government will implement all 140 recommendations in Dame Quentin Bryce’s landmark Not Now, Not Ever report into domestic and family violence. Not Now Not Ever draws on research and recommendations in the 2012 ALRC report Family Violence—A National Legal Response.

On 25 November 2015, the Australian Government introduced the Family Law Amendment (Financial Agreements and Other Measures) Bill 2015, which enables courts to better protect Australians affected by family violence. Among other things, the Bill repeals subsection 114(2), which implies that there is a continuing obligation to render conjugal rights or perform marital services. This amendment would implement Rec 17.6 of ALRC Report 114.

For Your Information: Australian Privacy Law and Practice (ALRC Report 108)

In December 2015, the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) called for public comment on a draft serious data breach notification Bill ahead of legislation being introduced in Parliament in 2016. The Draft Explanatory Memorandum states that the Bill implements the recommendations of the ALRC by requiring agencies and organisations regulated by the Privacy Act to provide notice to the Australian Information Commissioner and affected individuals of a serious data breach.

Submissions close on 4 March 2016.

Intern update

We would like to thank Semester Two interns, Justin Penn from the University of Sydney and Rosalind Acland from the University of New South Wales for the assistance they provided as interns on the Freedoms Inquiry. In 2016, the ALRC will welcome two new interns, Nishadee Perera and Sarah Dobbie—both from the Australian National University—who will join us full-time for a three-week period in February.

Dates for the 2016 intern program are as follows:

Semester 1 (part time)
14 March – 3 June (1 day a week)
Closing date for applications: 1 Feb

Semester 2 (part time)
8 August – 21 October (1 day a week)
Closing date for applications: 4 July

Summer 2017 (full time)*
3 week period between either: 9 Jan – 27 Jan 2017; or 30 Jan – 17 Feb 2017
Closing date for applications: 24 October 2016