‘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.

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Marie-Claire Muir (MM): Hi my name’s Marie-Claire Muir. I’m Web Manager at the Australian Law Reform Commission. I’m here this afternoon with two of our current interns, Adam Arnold and Sean Lau. Now the idea of this recording is just to give anyone who might be curious about the legal internship program some idea of what it’s all about. Now I did say current interns, but today is actually Sean’s last day with us and we’ve just finished our customary farewell-to-interns afternoon tea, so hopefully Sean we’ve buttered you up sufficiently that we can have a chat, together with Adam, and talk about your experiences here as interns. We might begin by getting you both to, each of you, to briefly describe where you are with your legal studies and what it was that got you interested in interning with the ALRC. Sean …

Sean Lau (SL): Hi everyone, my name’s Sean and I’m a fourth year arts/law student studying at the University of New South Wales. I suppose that for what got me interested in interning with the ALRC, it would first of all be hearing about the ALRC across a lot of the subjects that I had to study across my time at law school, so I would just hear this term ‘ALRC’ come up as a body that had actually made a lot of recommendations or proposals to the governments that were taken up that actually had a really big impact, so I suppose that sort of piqued my interest. And then a friend of mine told me that it was a really great place to intern, having interned there himself, and that they gave their interns really good and meaningful work, and I suppose that’s what really made me want to apply for an internship here. Adam? …

Adam Arnold (AA): Thanks Sean. Hi everybody. My name’s Adam I’m a final year arts/law student with a major in media communications at the University of New South Wales. What got me interested in interning at the ALRC was that, like Sean mentioned, is the fact that the ALRC is sort of an active change agent, and by that I mean they really engage with people from different parts of society and different issues and seek to craft the law so that it’s more equitable, a fairer system and that’s really something I think is really important, that the law is … um … provides a lot of equality to people and is as effective as it could be, and I’ve really enjoyed the policy side of my law degree so I thought this would be a good place to come and put it into action.

MM: Great, now I think both of you have been working mainly on the Classification Review … does one of you want to have a stab at just briefly explaining what’s going on with that and … and maybe what you’ve found particularly interesting or challenging in that review?

SL: So just by way of a bit of background about classification and the ALRC’s Classification Review, so basically when we talk about classification we just mean stuff like … um … should a video game or a film or even online material be given a classification rating, for example, M or MA or PG. So the ALRC has done a review on classification before but that was more than 20 years ago and since that time we’ve had, well, the advance of the digital media age with things like Facebook or YouTube or even the Internet explosion more generally. I guess in terms of what I found really interesting or challenging about classification and the ALRC’s Classification Review would probably just be the really conceptual questions that are at stake, for example, should we only regulate offline content or should we follow this thing called ‘platform neutrality’ where we want to classify all content regardless of what platform or what medium is it in? So should we classify a film on Facebook or YouTube the same way that we classify a film that you see in your film theatre? Adam, do you have anything to add to that?

AA: Yeah thanks Sean, yeah there are some really interesting issues here that sort of aren’t really legal issues and they, they dig at sort of more important questions about society and, and what’s the impact of certain types of media, of pornography and violence on people of different ages, people of different backgrounds and it’s been very, very interesting to obviously read a lot of the submissions from different groups in society, from all parts of the ideological spectrum and hear what their views are and then to try brainstorm with the great legal team here, where some proposals that we can put forward that take into account everyone’s views.

MM: Great, so the Classification legal team, it’s a fairly small one … what can you tell us about your role in the team and what kind of tasks the legal officers might be asking you to help them with?

AA: Thanks Marie-Claire, there’s a whole range of tasks, I wouldn’t really call them tasks cause a lot of them are  quite interesting and they’re not boring or dull or anything … um … we write, we help conduct research, … so interns will write research memos on chapters that the legal officers are writing for an Issues Paper or something like that, but we’ll also get to go to consultations, and at consultations the ALRC meets with people, important people, important stakeholders in the industry, for example, from Google, in the case of Classification, or the Video Games Association and it’s really interesting to sit down and sort of be a fly on the wall in those meetings. But in addition to that we get involved in helping out sort of … um … proofreading draft chapters and really getting involved as if we were just a normal part of the team. Sean …

SL: So one thing, I guess, I do want to stress is that the ALRC does try to give you a really varied range of tasks. So, Adam mentioned how you get to sit in consultations and you get to do proofreading and …

MM: you make proofreading sound so exciting … (laughs) … my most hated task.

SL: OK, all this was off the record … but in addition to that you do actually get really substantial research tasks, so for example, me and Adam have been looking into, in quite some detail, the question of what obligations should be imposed onto internet intermediaries, for example, ISPs but also user-generated content websites such as Facebook and YouTube, what sort of obligations should be imposed onto those websites and how we should sort of categorise those sorts of organisations so that we can impose those obligations onto them, and it’s actually a really difficult question that some, that there has been some literature written on it, not all that much and on that basis it is really a fertile area of research.

MM: Sure, so what would you say has been your … I don’t know, the highlight, the part of the internship you found most interesting or fun or … .

SL: I suppose the best part has really just been meeting and talking to all the various staff and legal and policy officers at the ALRC. They’ve been really helpful in providing guidance and really useful tasks. They’re just friendly people in general and, for example, after the Discussion Paper for the Classification Review was released we all went to Yum Cha and one of the full-time Commissioners paid for it (laughs) and we were just having really, really fun and interesting conversations and they are just really excellent people to get to know and to observe about how they think and approach the process of law reform. Adam …

AA: Highlight of the internship … um … a lot of morning teas in government which is fantastic (laughs), lots of birthdays … no, more seriously for me it’s been being treated just like a normal part of the team and just being able to do the work that everyone else does and see that you’re making a difference and that your research memo was, you know, was cited in the report which has got released and people are commenting on it online or you know the media will get a hold of it, and then they’ll … you can see your ideas in motion and that’s a really, really rewarding thing.

MM: I believe that when the Final Report’s released your names will be up there in lights with everybody else who’s worked on the project. Thanks both, it’s been fantastic having you both as part of the team and Adam I believe we get to keep you for another couple weeks which is great … but thank you both for all your hard work and for recording this segment. Now if anyone listening is interested in finding out more about the ALRC internships or how to apply you can find that information on the ALRC website at www.alrc.gov.au.

AA: See you later everyone.

SL: Bye.