Emeritus Professor Peter Cane FBA, FASSA, FAAL

Emeritus Professor
BA LLB (Sydney); BCL, DCL (Oxford)
pc286@cam.ac.uk

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Research Theme

Biography

Peter Cane was Professor of Law at ANU from 1997-2007, and Distinguished Professor from 2007-2016.
In 2016-7 he is Yorke Distinguished Visiting Fellow in the Faculty of Law at the University of Cambridge.
His main research interests are in public law (especially comparative administrative law), private law (especially tort law) and legal theory (especially concepts of responsibility).
He is a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, and a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia and the Australian Academy of Law.

Appointments

  • Yorke Distinguished Visiting Fellow in the Faculty of Law at the University of Cambridge (2016 - current)
  • Distinguished Professor of Law, Australian National University (2007 - 2016)
  • Professor of Law, Australian National University (1997-2007)

Recent news

29
Jun
2016
ANU Law Professors Peter Cane and Jane Stapleton
ANU College of Law Distinguished Professor Jane Stapleton has burst through it to become the first woman in 500 years to be elected as the Master of Christ’s College Cambridge.
09
Mar
2016
Reasonableness and rationality are key legal concepts to be explored by Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, Robert French AC, and Professor Jerry Mashaw, Sterling Professor of Law Emeritus and Professorial Lecturer, Yale University.
07
Nov
2012
ANU College of Law

Four ANU College of Law projects were awarded funding for The Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Projects commencing in 2013.

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

Research biography

I am currently engaged in various projects.
One is developing proposals for multi-authored volumes on Comparative Administrative Law (for OUP), a Legal History of the British Constitution, and a History of Law in Australia (both for CUP).
An important aim of these initiatives is to stimulate and encourage scholarship in these areas as well as to provide excellent, up-to-date treatments of these topics, especially for readers who already have some relevant knowledge.

I am co-writing a short 'ideas' book on tort law in a series entitled 'Key Ideas in Law' edited by Nick McBride, to be published by Hart/Bloomsbury.

My current work in legal theory is concerned with the way power and authority are distributed in complex legal and governmental systems.

Currently supervising

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
    Topic: The Quest for Legitimacy: Judicial Review Jurisdictions of the Superior Courts in Pakistan This thesis aims to present a contextualized account of the law in postcolonial Pakistan and situate the judicial review jurisprudence of the superior courts, in particular...
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
    Topic: Statutory Interpretation and the Legislative Process.
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
    Topic: Mind the Gap: a proposed framework for the measurement of accountability deficits and overloads in the context of Australian governance
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
    Topic: The Office of the Australian Attorney-General

PhD supervision

Because I am currently living in the UK I am not available to take on new research students at ANU.

Philosophy & approach

I held a research-intensive post at ANU and apart from helping with a graduate public-law seminar in Cambridge, I have not been significantly involved in graduate or undergraduate course-work teaching since the late 1990s. However, I understand much of what I do as forms of teaching. I continue to supervise currently enrolled ANU PhD students, and to mentor more junior colleagues.

Over the years, I have written a number of books for students and I'm still involved in some of these. Writing clearly and accessibly for student lawyers is extremely challenging and, in my mind, a form of teaching. I am also interested in community legal literacy. Some years ago I co-edited the New Oxford Companion to Law, published by OUP for a general audience. For me, teaching is a form of communication, and the best teaching relationships are interactive between teacher and student, and amongst students.

The other side of teaching is learning. To my mind, there are two main forms of learning: assisted learning and self-learning. Research is a form of self-learning and, therefore, a form of self-teaching. So-called 'original research' is the process of learning something that no-one has previously learned. Most research is not original in this sense but rather involves teaching oneself what (some) others have already learned. Original research is impossible without a great deal of preliminary self-teaching of what others already know. Originality is always only the tip of the academic iceberg. To change the metaphor: even the most original thinkers 'stand on the shoulders of giants'.

Assisted learning involves communication by a teacher to a learner. We are never too old to learn or too young to teach. The best assisted-learning environments allow the teacher also to learn and the learner also to teach. Teaching, learning and research are intertwined activities that lie at the heart of what universities are for.

Learning, teaching and researching about law derive their value and excitement from helping us to understand much about what it means to be human. As the ANU motto says: first, understand the nature of things.

Past courses

I taught law for 20 years at Oxford University. There, the prime medium of tuition was (and largely still is) the small group tutorial (1-4 students). I find this the most congenial and stimulating form of teaching and I was privileged to have the opportunity to participate in a system that regularly involved 12 hours of personal contact with undergraduates each week. Over the years I taught contract, tort, administrative law, constitutional law and jurisprudence.

Updated:  10 August 2015/Responsible Officer:  College General Manager, ANU College of Law/Page Contact:  Law Marketing Team