Ellen Rock

PhD Candidate
BA/LLB (Hons 1st class), GradDipLegPrac (College of Law)
0409 077620

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Biography

Ellen Rock is a PhD student.  Her dissertation looks at important issues in the context of government liability.  Her current research focuses on the theoretical underpinnings of public and private law as it applies to government decision-makers, identifying areas in which the remedial limitations of the current regime reveal a potential "accountability gap".

Ellen comes to us from a professional background, having worked as a Senior Associate in the Litigation team of a large corporate law firm, specialising in government liability in tort, and judicial review of administrative and legislative action.  She has also been very active in the pro bono community, working with a number of community legal centres and public interest groups.

Significant research publications

Ellen Rock, 'Fault and Accountability in Public Law' in Mark Elliot, Jason Varuhas and Shona Wilson eds The Unity of Public Law (Hart Publishing, 2017) (forthcoming)

Ellen Rock, 'Accountability: A Core Public Law Value?' (2017) 24(3) Australian Journal of Administrative Law (forthcoming)

Please note, only a small selection of recent publications and activities are listed below.

Research biography

Ellen Rock, 'Fault and Accountability in Public Law' in Mark Elliot, Jason Varuhas and Shona Wilson eds The Unity of Public Law (Hart Publishing, 2017) (forthcoming)

Ellen Rock, 'Accountability: A Core Public Law Value?' (2017) 24(3) Australian Journal of Administrative Law (forthcoming)

Topic

Mind the Gap: a proposed framework for the measurement of accountability deficits and overloads in the context of Australian governance

Program

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Further information

The concept of accountability has taken on the character of a fundamental public law value with close ties to the rule of law and separation of powers. Claims of "accountability deficits" are ubiquitous, with concerns being raised about blind spots and limitations in the context of existing political and legal accountability mechanisms. At the other extreme, claims are made about accountability "overloads", where the simultaneous application of numerous accountability mechanisms is said to produce unintended negative effects. All of these claims of too little or too much accountability presuppose that it is a measurable commodity, and that there are standards against which a given accountability mechanism can be measured and found wanting. Frequently, however, the literature glosses over these underlying issues.

My research explores and tests some of the often unstated assumptions that underpin claims of accountability deficits and overloads in the context of public governance, revealing two core issues that must be grappled with. First, it is not possible to make good a claim of "too little" or "too much" accountability without explicitly acknowledging the normative judgments being made when searching for the "right amount" of accountability. In other words, we cannot judge a mechanism as falling short of a standard if we are unwilling to state what that ideal standard is. Secondly, claims regarding accountability deficits and overloads cannot be made by looking at mechanisms in isolation, but must instead take into account the place of that mechanism within the wider network. So, for example, claims about the accountability limitations of the doctrine of responsible government must take into account the role to be played by other mechanisms, such as the courts, tribunals, ombudsmen regimes and the like. Otherwise, any claim of accountability deficit will necessarily be a preliminary observation.

Chair

Primary supervisor

Associate Supervisor

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