Friday, January 28, 2005

Habib v The Queen?

Now that Habib is on his way from Guantanamo Bay, a legitimate question is asked whether the Crown is immune from legal action from Habib.

The Australia Law Reform Commission dicussion paper highlights that the Government can be liablity for injury, loss and damage by way of inaction or ineffective action.

If Habib was maltreated to the point of "virtually" being tortured, and the Government had sat on its hands over this matter, does the Government owe a duty to its citizens to protect them? Is the pledge taken by the citizen when citizenship is conferred a one-way bargain or is there an implicit promise by the Government to act in the interest of its citizens?

The report cites Cubillo v Commonwealth1, where a member of the "Aboriginal stolen generation" sued the Government for not using its powers properly through failing to act in her best interests. Incidentally, Cubillo lost, on grounds that she wasn't able to satisfy the court that the officer of the Commonwealth had an intention to act against Cubillo's interests. (The officer, Mr Moy, was deceased at the time of the hearing).

1[2000] FCA 1084

Sunday, January 16, 2005

IP3 Systems: Does a University own all the IP of their employees

NSW Society for Computers and the Law has a comprehensive analysis of the Victorian Supreme Court decision in the IP3 Systems case.

In this case, the work of the two professors of the VUT (Victorian University of Technology) were held to be property of the University although they were hired not for "inventing", but for "research". Critically, the court held that the higher their positions, the wider the scope of their activities fell within the terms of their employment.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Tsunami aid - is it inflationary?

With the Australian government now committing AUD$1 billion (USD 765 mil) to Indonesia, one wonders whether the influx of money will only lead to inflation or not.

The point is with limited capacity, the affected countries can't really produce enough building materials to get the people's lives back on track.

Surely there should be some monies set aside for other ways of helping out:

a) people are going to need places to live in: use funds to license manufacturing technology or designs from larger companies (like James Hardie) so that houses can be constructed cheaply.

b) use innovative building materials: fund architects to design new housing out of cheap, new lightweight materials.

c) fishermen are going to need boats: what sort of engineering help can we provide here?

d) what about feed stocks: have the breeding places been destroyed?

Postscript (7 Jan):

Looks like the Australian Department of Fisheries is going to be helping out.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Hiring lawyers from big firms

Patrick Schiltz, of Notre Dame Law School wrote in "On Being a Happy, Healthy and Ethical Memeber of an Unhappy, Unhealthy, and Unethical Profession":

I am as critical of big firms as anyone, but I
don’t think it can be denied that, on average, big firm lawyers are
more talented and do better work than lawyers in other practice settings. There are, of course, tens of thousands of exceptions—lawyers who do not practice in big firms who are superb, or lawyers who do practice in big firms who are incompetent. But if I had to choose between two law firms to represent me in an important matter, and I knew nothing about the two law firms except that one had 250 lawyers and the other had five, I would hire the big firm in a second. So would most other lawyers.

Classic case of information asymmetry. Can the internet help?

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Bush to Name Ex-Presidents Bush, Clinton to Asia Relief Effort

It is ironic that the inward-looking Bush has been charged with managing two major international events that happened in the last decade. This terrible tsunami is Asia's equivalent of 9/11. It shocked the world and brought peoples together.

The tsunami relief effort is one of the best chance for the US to establish it's credibility in the predominantly Muslim South-East Asia.

With the toll in Indonesia approaching 100,000, any acts of generosity at this critical stage will help quell suspicion that the US is anti-Muslim. Violence has not been a characteristic of the peace-loving South East Asian Muslims until recently. I sincerely hope that any kindness shown will be returned with opened dialogue and better appreciation of US's position.

On a related note, more critically, this is a chance for the Thai government to work in an fair manner with the Muslim minority in southern Thailand, to demonstrate some value of not seceding from Thailand.

ps. My feelings have been echoed by Tom Barnett over here.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Poverty is no disgrace, but it's a great inconvenience its a crime.

You'd better read the article yourself. Here's an excerpt from the Queensland law books:

A Vagrant includes any person who:
  • has insufficient or no visible lawful means of support (s 4(1)(a));

  • is a habitual drunkard who behaves in a disorderly or riotous manner in a public place (s 4(1)(c)), (the Liquor Act 1992 (Qld) also prohibits consuming liquor in a public place); or

  • loiters or places himself/herself in a public place to beg or gather alms (s 4(1)(k)).

The penalty for being a Vagrant is a fine of $100 or 6 months imprisonment.