The Multilateral Human Rights System: Systemic Challenge or Healthy Contestation?
Author(s): Jolyon Ford
This essay explores some of the parameters and merits of a putative argument that the announcement of June 19, 2018 that the United States would withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council might most properly be understood as but one manifestation of a wider political backlash within the US (and indeed other Western democracies) against the multilateral human rights system epitomized by the Council. There are two prongs to this argument. First, populist-nationalist political sentiment at home simultaneously fuels and is fanned by strident high-profile diplomatic critiques (or even rejections) of global bodies such as the Council. Second, the nature and force of this backlash constitutes a systemic threat to the future of the post-1945 rules-based international order, especially since it comes mostly from the superpower whose values-based rhetoric and leadership has perhaps done most to advance the global human rights agenda in the modern era.
Deliberative Constitutional Referendums in Deeply Divided Societies
Author(s): Ron Levy
If referendums are not carefully designed and conducted so as to promote moderation, they may undermine deliberation and hence undermine one of the necessary or principal conditions of their own success. Naturally, there is no suggestion here chat referendums can solve all the ills that deeply divided societies face or that democracy can be reduced to referendums. Yet, if skilfully and sensitively designed, they can play a crucial role, so long, that is, as ordinary people are made to feel that their views count for something in the process.
Corporate Law, Complexity and Cartography
The relationship between corporate law and corporate practice is complex. So too is the relationship between the different types of corporate law rules — from primary and delegated legislation, through listing rules and ASIC orders to corporate constitutions. Corporate lawyers tend to respond to this complexity and diversity by implicit understanding than by conceptual framework. This article offers one way of conceptualising the complexity of corporate law rules and their relationship to corporate practice. Drawing on Boaventura de Sousa Santos’ influential 1987 article ‘Law: A Map of Misreading. Toward a Postmodern Conception of Law’, the article looks to cartography as an unexpected source of ideas to assist in understanding the shape of modern corporate law rules.
The Pandemic Paradox in International Law
This article examines a series of paradoxes that have rendered the international legal order’s mechanisms for collective action powerless precisely when they are most needed to fight COVID-19. The “patriotism paradox” is that disengagement from the international legal order weakens rather than strengthens state sovereignty. The “border paradox” is that securing domestic populations by excluding non-citizens, in the absence of accompanying regulatory mechanisms to secure adherence to internal health measures, accelerates viral spread among citizens. The “equality paradox” is that while pandemics pose an equal threat to all people, their impacts compound existing inequalities.
Backlash against a Rules-based International Human Rights Order? An Australian Perspective
Author(s): Jolyon Ford
This article engages with the question of whether we can identify a recent populist political ‘backlash’ within some Western democracies against the institutions, instruments and even the ideas of the multilateral (United Nations and treaty-based) human rights system. An associated question concerns what the implications of any such phenomenon might be for the universalist human rights system (or at least Australia’s participation therein), and perhaps the implications for the wider global legal order of which the human rights project has, for decades now, been such an important part. A second question-bundle is whether we can discern signs recently that Australia may be one of those ‘backlash’ states, and what systemic implications this may have for Australia’s oft-repeated fidelity to, and reliance upon, the international rules-based order. Sitting above or behind these questions is the broader issue of whether the concept of ‘backlash’ is useful at all in explaining or analysing recent developments, and/or what modifications or qualifiers it might need. This article attempts to address these questions, focussing first on exploring ways to approach, unpack refine or re-frame the ‘backlash’ concept. It then takes the resulting frame(s) to provide a general overview of recent Australian practice and rhetoric. This is so as to advance a useful characterisation of Australia’s conduct, even if it does not in a ‘Yes/No sense’ meet Sunstein’s definition of systemic-level ‘backlash’ intended to reject a legal order and remove its legal force.
Navigating the Backlash against Global Law and Institutions
This article considers the recent ‘Backlash’ against global norms and institutions fuelled by various contemporary political developments within and between states. Understanding the shape, significance and drivers of this phenomenon better is a pre-requisite to developing and analysing possible responses by Australia and other states. The recent rise of populism and ‘illiberal democracy’ especially within major Western democracies has challenged the longstanding and widespread commitment of those states to the rules-based order. These phenomena have also eroded the traditional global leadership, in multilateral forums, of key powers including UN permanent members the United States and the United Kingdom. The populations of these and other states have responded to perceptions of economic and political disempowerment by pressuring political representatives to focus their energies domestically. In order both to appeal and respond to domestic political forces, leaders in these states have sought to target or sometimes scapegoat the international institutions that have hitherto been so useful to their foreign policy agenda. This article examines the consequences of understanding the current populist moment as part of a Backlash against global law and institutions and the ramifications of the Backlash frame for international peace and security. It also considers the implications of the Backlash frame for the international human rights system, the impact of the turn inward for global trade and finance and the Backlash against environmental norms.
Navigating the Backlash: Re-integrating WTO and Public International Law?
Author(s): Imogen Saunders
The debate about the extent of the interaction between WTO law and public international law has existed for as long as the WTO itself. While WTO case law confirms a willingness of panels and the Appellate Body to embrace interpretative rules of general international law, engagement with non-trade obligations under non-WTO treaties has been more patchy. Nonetheless, the reality of competing international legal obligations on States will continue to grow. Could a deliberate shift to consider non-WTO obligations in WTO disputes help maintain the relevance of the institution?
Public Finance and Parliamentary Constitutionalism
Author(s): Will Bateman
Public Finance and Parliamentary Constitutionalism analyses constitutionalism and public finance (tax, expenditure, audit, sovereign borrowing and monetary finance) in Anglophone parliamentary systems of government. The book surveys the history of public finance law in the UK, its export throughout the British Empire, and its entrenchment in Commonwealth constitutions. It explains how modern constitutionalism was shaped by the financial impact of warfare, welfare-state programs and the growth of central banking. It then provides a case study analysis of the impact of economic condition on governments' financial behaviour, focusing on the UK's and Australia's responses to the financial crisis, and the judiciary's position vis-à-vis the state's financial powers. Throughout, it questions orthodox accounts of financial constitutionalism (particularly the views of A. V. Dicey) and the democratic legitimacy of public finance. Currently ignored aspects of government behaviour are analysed in-depth, particularly the constitutional role of central banks and sovereign debt markets.
> Provides the first constitutional analysis of public finance law and practice in UK and Commonwealth jurisdictions
> Provides an historical treatment of legal and constitutional dimensions of public finance in British and Commonwealth jurisdictions
> Accessibly explains how government, law and economic conditions interact before, during and after moments of economic crisis, using the UK and Australia as examples
Who Has the Power? A Critical Perspective on Space Governance and New Entrants to the Space Sector
Author(s): Cassandra Steer
Space law and space politics are determined by the same big players as terrestrial geopolitics, and therefore in asking how to govern space, we have to take the current realities of international relations and international law into account. How are new entrants interacting with the international space law regime inherited from the Cold War, and what kinds of new governance structures might we need to deal with the increasing number and kinds of participants emerging in the space sector? I take a critical perspective, drawing on feminist legal theory and Third World Perspectives on International Law (TWAIL) to pose further questions: who is exercising power over the development of new legal and governance norms in space and who is excluded from this? I argue that, because we are all so dependent on space for our contemporary existence, 21st century space governance needs to take into account more than the interests of the biggest players.
Judicial Review’s Exclusion by Privative Clauses: Dead or Just Resting?
Author(s): Greg Weeks
The privative clause is dead – or so we are told. Nonetheless, it remains a topic of conversation and judicial attention in both Australia and England, albeit for somewhat different reasons. The Australian approach to privative clauses is substantially coloured by the relevance attached to the concept of jurisdictional error and is therefore distinctly constitutional in its outlook. The English courts have long ago dismissed the role of jurisdictional error and, although they continue to rely on the precedent of Anisminic Ltd v Foreign Compensation Commission  2 AC 147, do so while rejecting the reasoning which informs the use of that case in Australia. This article considers the approaches taken in both jurisdictions and attempts to set out the continuing relevance of the privative clause in Australia.
Research theme: Administrative Law
The 'Legitimate Interest in Performance' in the Law on Penalties
Author(s): Solene Rowan
The article focuses on the “legitimate interest in performance” requirement which is now at the heart of the new test on penalty clauses but which has been left undefined by the Supreme Court in Cavendish Square Holding BV v Talal El Makdessi and Parking Eye Ltd v Beavis . It seeks to bring clarity to what is meant by “legitimate interest in performance” by examining other areas of the law of remedies for breach of contract where concepts of legitimate interest have featured in the court’s reasoning. It also makes suggestions as to what considerations are or might be relevant in determining whether a contracting party has a legitimate interest in performance, in particular a legitimate interest that goes beyond compensation.
Research theme: Private Law
Fit Your Own Oxygen Mask First: The Contemporary Neoliberal University and the Well-Being of Legal Academics
Author(s): Colin James
Research in several countries has confirmed earlier studies showing the well-being of law students may decrease significantly during their legal education. As law schools are expected to respond to these findings, attention is moving towards the well-being of legal academics themselves, since their direct interaction with law students may help prevent the decline of law student well-being, if not positively promote their well-being. There is a paucity of research on the well-being of law teachers and their capacity to support student wellbeing. However, there is an increasing number of broader studies on the likely effects of the neoliberal university on staff and students. This chapter follows and complements an earlier paper reporting on results of national surveys of UK and Australian law teachers conducted in 2015 and 2017.
Research theme: The Legal Profession
Committing to Human Rights in Australia's Corporate Sector
Author(s): Sally Wheeler
This paper draws on data collected from the ASX 50 with a focus on policy commitment to human rights. As the UNGP makes clear a visible and accessible policy commitment is the most basic form of recognition that corporations should afford to human rights. The paper takes the position that this policy commitment offers corporations a chance to declare a positive relationship with human rights. Therefore the presence or not of a policy statement, and the form that the statement takes, tells us much about the relationship between the corporate sector and human rights. The data reveals that there is generally a low compliance with the policy commitment requirement. The most significant factor amongst a range of variables examined for predicting whether compliance will occur or not is membership of human rights engaged Business and Industry Non-Governmental Organisations (BINGOs). We might expect a rather stronger public commitment to human rights reflecting the position taken by Australian corporations on other ESG standards. The paper suggests that the absence of human rights discourse as a political and cultural artifact at the domestic nation state level is a possible explanation for this.
Research theme: Law and Technology
Student Wellbeing Through Teacher Wellbeing: A Study with Law Teachers in the UK and Australia
Author(s): Colin James
Research confirms law students and lawyers in the US, Australia and more recently in the UK are prone to symptoms related to stress and anxiety disproportionately to other professions. In response, the legal profession and legal academy in Australia and the UK have created Wellness Networks to encourage and facilitate research and disseminate ideas and strategies that might help law students and lawyers to thrive. This project builds on that research through a series of surveys of law teachers in the UK and Australia on the presumption that law teachers are in a strong position to influence their students not only about legal matters, but on developing attitudes and practices that will help them to survive and thrive as lawyers. The comparative analysis reveals several differences, but also many similarities with law teachers in both countries reporting negative effects from neoliberal pressures on legal education programs that impact their wellbeing, performance as teachers and ability to adequately respond to student concerns.
Trust and Distrust in Digital Economies
Author(s): Philippa Ryan
In digital economies, the Internet enables the "platformisation" of everything. Big technology companies and mobile apps are running mega marketplaces, supported by seamless online payments systems. This rapidly expanding ecosystem is fueled by data. Meanwhile, perceptions of the global financial crisis, data breaches, disinformation and the manipulation of political sentiment have combined to create a modern trust crisis. A lack of trust constrains commerce, particularly in terms of consumer protection and investment. Big data, artificial intelligence, automated algorithms and blockchain technology offer new solutions and risks.
Trust in our legal systems depends on certainty, consistency, and enforceability of the law. However, regulatory and remedial gaps exist because the law has not kept up with technology. This work explores the role of competency and good faith, in the creation of social and legal relationships of trust; and the need for governance transparency and human accountability to combat distrust, particularly in digital economies.
Research theme: Law and Technology
The Creation of Australian Administrative Law: The Constitution and Its Judicial Gate-Keepers
Author(s): Greg Weeks
For a long time judicial review in Australia was little more than a carbon copy of its English equivalent. In the period before the various Australian states became part of a unified federal nation, judicial review occurred within the inherent supervisory jurisdiction of the various Supreme Courts of those individual colonies and proceeded in a manner similar to that of English courts exercising inherent supervisory jurisdiction. The Australian Constitution is now the defining feature and dominant force of our judicial review doctrine.
The key feature of the Australian Constitution that has enabled the recognition and entrenchment of judicial review of administrative action is the express creation and entrenchment of the courts. The express recognition and protection of a selection of the judicial remedies has proved equally important because the constitutional mention of some of the traditional remedies of judicial review has provided the foundation for the courts to entrench by implication that which necessarily precedes the issue of those remedies. While these and other important elements of the Australian Constitution have enabled the development of constitutionally protected avenues of supervisory review, this same constitutional foundation has also provided the source of judicial review principles that increasingly differ from their early English heritage. Many parallels between English and Australian principles remain and the one we discuss about natural justice suggests that, as happens within so many families, Australian judicial review can unwittingly replicate the mistakes of its English parent.
Research theme: Administrative Law
Towards the Uberisation of Legal Practice
Author(s): Margaret Thornton
Uber and Airbnb signify new ways of working and doing business by facilitating direct access to providers through new digitalised platforms. The gig economy is also beginning to percolate into legal practice through what is colloquially known as NewLaw. Eschewing plush offices, permanent staff and the rigidity of time billing, NewLaw offers cheaper services to clients to compete more effectively with traditional law firms. For individual lawyers, autonomy, flexibility, a balanced life, well-being and even happiness are the claimed benefits. The downside appears that NewLaw favours senior and experienced lawyers while disproportionately affecting recent graduates. This article draws on interviews with lawyers in Australian and English NewLaw firms to evaluate the pros and cons of NewLaw.
Elected Member Influence in the United Nations Security Council
Author(s): Jeremy Farrall
This article reassesses how members of the UN Security Council exercise influence over the Council’s decision-making process, with particular focus on the ten elected members (the ‘E10’). A common understanding of Security Council dynamics accords predominance to the five permanent members (the ‘P5’), suggesting bleak prospects for the Council as a forum that promotes the voices and representation of the 188 non-permanent members. The assumption is that real power rests with the P5, while the E10 are there to make up the numbers. By articulating a richer account of Council dynamics, this article contests the conventional wisdom that P5 centrality crowds out space for the E10 to influence Council decision-making. It also shows that opportunities for influencing Council decision-making go beyond stints of elected membership. It argues that the assumed centrality of the P5 on the Council thus needs to be qualified and re-evaluated.
Values. The Flip-Side of the Wellbeing Coin
Author(s): Vivien Holmes
Both ancient philosophers and modern psychologists assure us that our happiness and our values are inextricably linked: true happiness and wellbeing come not from the mere pursuit of pleasure, but from living in accordance with values that give us a sense of meaning and connection with others and self. This chapter explores the relationship between happiness (defined as subjective wellbeing) and values, and the implications of this relationship for law students and lawyers, law schools and legal workplaces. Research shows that the more we enact, rather than just subscribe to, certain values, the greater will be our wellbeing. Further, the psychological factors that influence whether lawyers experience wellbeing also influence their ethical decision-making and level of professionalism. We know that law school curricula affect student wellbeing; law schools also play a critical role in supporting (or inhibiting) the development of professional values and in teaching skills to enable students and future lawyers to live out those values. After law school, workplace culture can profoundly influence our wellbeing, while also influencing whether we are able to express/enact our professional values. Evidence suggests that effective regulation can encourage legal practices to improve their ethical cultures, which in turn could improve wellbeing. We need as a profession to attend to this connection between wellbeing and values; to fulfil its role in society, the legal profession needs to be well, which means being deeply connected to values.
When Is the Advancement of Religion Not a Charitable Purpose?
Author(s): Pauline Ridge
This article addresses the question of why religious groups receive charitable status in relation to religious activities by considering when the current law does not grant charitable status to purposes that advance religion. The jurisdictional focus is upon Australian law, with some reference to other jurisdictions whose law also derives from the English common law of charity. After an overview of the charity law landscape in Australia, the article explains and critically evaluates the grounds upon which charitable status may be refused to purposes that advance religion. The article then considers two considerations that have emerged in twenty first century charity law and that are relevant to the charitable status of religious groups. These concern human rights, particularly the right to freedom of religion, and the use of charity law to regulate religious activity.