4 June 2019
On 24 May 2019, Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush was awarded $2.87 million for his defamation case against the Daily Telegraph. This includes $850 000 in damages, almost $2 million in past and future economic loss, and $42 000 in interest. It is the second highest defamation pay-out ever, and the highest ever awarded to a single individual. This sum does not include costs.Read more
27 May 2019
On Monday 13 May, ABC’s Four Corners aired a harrowing exposé about the detention in Queensland of youths suspected of criminal wrongdoing in watch houses. Watch houses are adult maximum security facilities, which are used to hold a range of offenders who have been charged with offences ranging from minor street offences to the most series offences, such as paedophilia, and murder.Read more
24 May 2019
Yorta Yorta woman Ms Day died in hospital on 22 December 2017. Around 3pm on 5 December 2017, she was arrested for allegedly being intoxicated on a train in Castlemaine, Victoria. There is conflicting evidence about the charge. The conductor said Ms Day was unruly, and called police, further alleging she did not have a ticket. The Guardian reported that Ms Day did have a ticket. Other witnesses said Ms Day did not appear intoxicated, though CCTV suggested Ms Day was slightly unsteady on her feet.Read more
A controversial Local Court judgment in Western Australia in relation to indecent assault has been upheld by the Western Australia Supreme Court. The judgment turned on an agreed set of facts. After a charity wheelchair basketball event, members of the police team prepared to take a group photo. One of the men in the photo said something like “don’t take this the wrong way”, and as the photo was about to be taken, pinched a woman on the side of her right buttock. The woman accepted that this action was intended to be “in some way humorous" and was done "in order to provoke a startled reaction”.
It was agreed that there was an unlawful assault, however the prosecution needed to also show the assault was indecent. Indecent assault carries up to 5 years imprisonment, and a fine of $24,000. For an assault to be indecent, it must have a sexual connotation, and offend against prevailing contemporary community standards of decency and propriety. The Magistrate made a series of findings, concluding that touching a person’s bottom was not necessarily or inherently indecent and the pinch in this case was an example of unlawful but not indecent touching.Read more
3 April 2019
CQX18 is the boat identification of an Iranian man, who applied for a visa in March 2018. This request was rejected, and that decision was reaffirmed in April. He appealed that decision in the Federal Circuit Court in July 2018. Judge Street heard the Iranian man’s appeal that day. Judge Street ruled against him, and ordered him to pay the Minister’s costs of $7328. Judge Street delivered his ruling orally. This presented a significant challenge to the Iranian man. He was not in the courtroom, but connected by video link from Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre.Read more
26 March 2019
The High Court of Australia has refused to hear an appeal from the NSW Attorney-General in relation to trying the man suspected of murdering three Aboriginal children in Bowraville. The saga of the Bowraville murders has lasted for almost 30 years, beginning with the deaths of the children over a period of five months from 1990 to 1991. The disappearances were originally treated with minimal concern by the police, who suggested the children had gone “walkabout”. The police failure to gather evidence in the crucial early period doomed the attempt to gain justice for the children. In 1994, a man was tried for the murder of one of the children, Clinton Speedy-Duroux. He was acquitted.
According to Professor Larissa Behrendt, the police began to rebuild their credibility with the local Aboriginal community by appointing detective inspector Gary Jubelin to investigate the case. He gathered new evidence to try the same suspect, and presented it before a coronial inquest in 2004. It was regarded as compelling, and this led to a new trial of the suspect, this time for the murder of one of the other children, Evelyn Greenup. Once again, the man was acquitted. The prosecution argued for admitting the new evidence in relation to the deaths of the other children, but this submission was rejected.Read more
21 March 2019
On 13 March, the High Court of Australia handed down what is widely considered one of the most significant cases on native title since the famous Mabo 2. The case considered the rights of the Ngaliwurru and Nungalli peoples to compensation in relation to their traditional lands in the Northern Territory.
The basic principle of native title is that where Aboriginal people can show that they have traditionally used land in a particular way, they have acquired a kind of right to that land to continue their usage. That right is called native title. Native title can be extinguished in various ways. An example of extinguishment is what happened in Timber Creek. Between 1980 and 1996, the Northern Territory government engaged in 53 acts, such as granting tenure to land, and constructing public works. These extinguishing acts occurred over 127 hectares, to which Aboriginal people up to that point had exercised their native title.Read more
As the NSW state election approaches on March 23, and the federal election approaches in May, abortion law reform is finally on the political agenda. Most significantly, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition Tanya Plibersek announced the ALP’s National Sexual and Reproductive Health Strategy. Part of this Strategy will include tying federal health funding of public hospitals to their provision of abortion services. The effect of this will be to place significant pressure on states like NSW, where abortion is currently illegal, to provide abortion services in public hospitals. Labor has said it intends to “work closely with the states” to progress decriminalising abortion across Australia.
Queensland decriminalised abortion in October 2018. NSW is currently the only state or territory in Australia where abortion is a criminal offence. There are restrictions on when abortion is legal in other states and territories, including varying conditions on gaining the approval of doctors.Read more
On Wednesday 27 February, at about 4 pm, the Queensland State Parliament passed its Human Rights Bill into law, by a series of vote 49 to 43. There are now three individual human rights acts in Australia: one in Queensland, one in Victoria, and one in the Australian Capital Territory.
The three acts operate in broadly similar ways. They require courts and tribunals to interpret legislation in a way consistent with human rights, except where doing so would be inconsistent with the purpose or plain meaning of the legislation. If the Supreme Court is asked to find whether a particular law or statute is incompatible with human rights, declaring that there is an incompatibility does not result in the law being struck down. The declaration simply means that the relevant Minister or Attorney General has to table a written response to this declaration in parliament. These declarations have been further defanged in Queensland and Victoria, whose human rights acts provide for their parliaments issuing override declarations. Where these are made, the human rights acts have no bearing in relation to the relevant provisions or legislation.Read more
In December last year, Wentworth MP Kerryn Phelps advanced a bill to provide for emergency medical evacuations for people on Manus or Nauru. After negotiations with the crossbench, she agreed on amendments with independent MP Tim Storer and the Greens. These amendments were passed by the Senate with Labor’s support.
The bill provided that if two doctors agreed a person needed medical attention, they should be brought to Australia. The Minister can refuse to do so for security reasons related to ASIO assessment. If the Minister believes that the person does not need medical evacuation, an Independent Health Advice Panel would evaluate the question. The Minister could not overrule their conclusions on medical grounds: the Minister could only refuse medical evacuation if the person was judged prejudicial to Australia’s security. The Bill also provided for 24 hour limits on each step of the process, in recognition of the medical emergency involved.Read more