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  Alternative Law Journal   (Australia)
  Volume 30, Number 4, August 2005
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  • Opinion

  • Protecting, Respecting and Fulfilling Human Rights

  • Articles
  • Were corporate tsunami donations made legally?
        Peter Henley
                                                                                               +cite        
        This article examines the issue of corporate social responsibility and the ways in which current legislative and regulatory frameworks fail to promote -- and sometimes even fetter -- environmentally and socially responsible and sustainable corporate conduct. This article discusses a range of permissive and prescriptive legal and public policy strategies to promote corporate social responsibility.
  • When right equals rights: The international obligation to provide assistance to developing countries
        Kirsty Nowlan and Tim Costello
                                                                                               +cite        
        This article focuses on the responsibilities of the international community in relation to the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights. It examines, in particular, the obligations of wealthy nations (as defined by their membership of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development). The authors hold that there is a clear legal obligation on the part of all nation state members of the international community to provide assistance under international human rights law and that many developed countries, including Australia, are failing to properly discharge their obligations. If human rights are to be regarded as universal, then the accident of birth that establishes where most people live cannot determine who gets to enjoy the full range of economic, social and cultural rights.
  • Finding rights in the 'wrongs' of our law: Bringing international law home
        John Tobin
                                                                                               +cite        
        This article seeks to encourage practitioners to re-read the relationship between international and domestic law so as to discover windows of opportunity within the common law and legislation which allow for the use of international human rights law to inform and expand the protection of people's rights under domestic law. It takes the treatment of refugees by the High Court as a case study to suggest that the obiter of some judges may provide scope to argue for an implied constitutional protection against cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and provide an opportunity to interpret common law remedies by reference to international human rights standards.
  • The use of a military level of force on civilian prisoners: Strip searching, urine testing, cell extractions and DNA sampling in Victoria
        Craig Minogue
                                                                                               +cite        
        Craig Minogue examines from an insider's perspective the use of force in Victoria's prisons and how strip searching, urine testing and cell extractions are underpinned by a military level of force. Craig argues that this level of military force and the climate of fear that the threat of the use of such force creates, results in a corporal punishment type compliance and disciplinary strategy that is used for such things as extraction of DNA samples from prisoners under questionable legality and with an absence of ethics and morality.
  • Do not pass go: The impact of criminal record checks on employment in Australia
        Bronwyn Naylor
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        Criminal record checks seem to have become a way of life in Australia. Requests in Victoria for a record check for employment increased almost 100-fold from 1992-03 to 2003-04. This article argues that record checks risk being over-inclusive. They are intended to exclude inappropriate employees, but they also exclude excellent potential employees who pose no risk. The drive to require record checks for most employment arises not only from appropriate risk management but also from fear, prejudice and punitiveness. The focus on criminal records makes it more difficult for former offenders to re-engage with the community through work. UK research has found that employment can reduce recidivism by between a third and a half -- but that 60% of ex-offenders were being refused jobs because of their criminal record, often on discriminatory grounds.
  • Take-home lessons for gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual school students
        Loretta de Plevitz
                                                                                               +cite        
        The take-home lesson from this survey of Australian anti-discrimination law is that the legislation offers only minimal protection to gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual students who are verbally abused by other students. School students, apart from those in Tasmania, cannot be liable for discrimination. Only the Northern Territory Act protects students from being harassed on the basis of their heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality or transsexuality, but this is by educational authorities, not other students. Vilification on the grounds of a person's sexual orientation, sexuality or transgender status is only prohibited in NSW, Queensland and Tasmania. The discrimination legislation lacks a coherent approach to the problem.
  • Stories from a favela: the limits of (property) law
        Janice Gray
                                                                                               +cite        
        This article offers a descriptive account of housing and space issues in one of the favelas or shanty towns in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It examines issues such as subdivision, building compliance, financing and title tracing and then demonstrates how traditional legal understandings of these issues are challenged by an examination of them against a backdrop of lawlessness.
  • Divorcing marital status from social security payments
        Tamar Hopkins
                                                                                               +cite        
        This article explores the Social Security Act 1991 'member of a couple' provisions. Through discounting the theory that the purpose of the provisions is to offset the benefits of cost-sharing among cohabiting people, the author uncovers the Act's assumption that people in heterosexual relationships should financially support each other. The author argues that this assumption is discriminatory, creates poverty and conflict and is based on an out-of-date relationship model. Instead, social security payments should be based on individual assessment; an arrangement which could be more cost effective than the current system.

  • Briefs
  • Liberal democracy and voluntary student union legislation
        Judith Bessant
                                                                                               +cite        
        This Brief examines the implications of the Howard government's proposed voluntary student union legislation for deliberative democracy, exchange of ideas and provision of basic services in universities.