Thursday, February 24, 2005

Movie about lawyers

Heard on the radio Mel Gibson is negotiating rights to make a movie about Australian lawyers. Move over Crocodile Dundee.

(OK, it's not all about Australian lawyers, it's about James Hardie Co. and the little guy who took them on in the legal system).

Friday, February 18, 2005

Parliamentary Question Time

There has been a lot of hair splitting over what is interview and what amounts to interrogation.

An interview is when the Prime Minister is able to get the defense minister to lie on his behalf. An interrogation is when the Defense Minister is forced to lie on behalf of the Prime Minister.

There. Simple.

(Update 11 March 2005): Saying "rendering" is not "interrogation" is like saying euthanasia is not suicide. Nice words. Same bite.

Thursday, February 17, 2005


Laws are only one aspect which governs how we conduct ourselves. Just because it is legal doesn't mean something is right, or the even best option.

Example 1: the so-called "interview" of Iraqi prisoners by Australian intelligence officials. It may be semantically legal, but no one really doubts the Iraqis were beaten up.1

Example 2: Not apologizing for the detention of Cornelia Rau when it was clearly the "right thing to do", even if there are legal implications.

Example 3: The "right thing to do" defense has been used by the Government before though: in the case of the invasion of Iraq, and the sending of troops to East Timor when both were on questionable legal grounds.2

Conduct can also be governed informally through responsibility to one's community. For instance, members of the Muslim community was quoted to have said "Mamdouh Habib owes an explanation to the Australian Muslim community what he was doing in Afghanistan". That's a pretty legitimate expectation, given that all Muslims may be unfairly tarred with the terrorist brush by the questionable acts of one person.

The other one is simply of conventions - like not misleading the parliament. With both upper and lower house majority, the leader could get away with anything really, even lying. Looking at how John Howard had avoided trying to mislead the parliament by having layers of advisers and passing off questions to his ministers, I'm not certain what he's trying to achieve. He's only lessening his place in history by not being a real leader. Furthermore, he's not really endearing himself to his ministers. Costello and Hill are the kind of decent people one would invite home for dinner.

1I'm impressed by the fact that Australians are more willing to act as whistleblowers compared to their American counterpart. Cynicism triumphs over jingoism.

2The only distinguishing feature between (2) and (3) is that Indonesia and Iraq were unlikely to sue the Australian Government.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Learn something new everyday

10 points for any one who could name the middle names of Tony Abbott and Peter Costello. (answers)

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Crikey - Vanstone, Cornelia Rau and Habib

A reader wrote to Crikey:
Who has empathy for Hicks and habib

Who gives a flying ???? about Mamdou Habib? Three journalists and a couple of civil rights lawyers, perhaps. Crikey, the ABC and Fairfax should cease flogging a dead camel and admit the bloke's very suss. Talk with people around the streets and you'll learn that 99% of the Australian population has no sympathy or empathy for Habib or Hicks. The remaining 1%is attempting to keep this non-issue on the boil. Now there's this nutter Ms Rau who doesn't know what planet she's on, let alone what country, as the new cause celebre.


Maree, these journalists and lawyers are fighting for your children and grandchildren, so that they too will enjoy the same liberties you had once enjoyed.

Prediction: When the investigation into Ms Rau's case is complete, fingers will be pointing at the States inadequacy with handling mental health patients, rather than how equitable it is to lock up people who are not dangerous.

Already, the opposition is wimping out, saying that the "inquiry should investigate all aspects of the case including the process that led to Ms Rau’s detention". What about section 177 of the Migration Act that you helped pass?

Update:Now the Prime Minister says he cannot apologize, citing that it would be legally dangerous. What a Howard. You've locked up an innocent person in our name. The least you could do is to apologize in our name too.

Update 9/2/2005: There are some reports that Cornelia declared herself as an illegal immigrant. I would have thought this in itself should have raised some warning bells. Incidentally, the old Soviet Union used to send their dissidents to mental institutions, reasoning that these people have to be mad to be openly against the government.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Blogrolled! (First time ever)

Thanks Fumier! Whew, now I have to write more regularly.

Also added The Law West of Ealing Broadway, a blog by an anonymous Magistrate in England.
Musings and Snippets from an English Magistrate This blog is anonymous, and Bystander's views are his and his alone. Where his views differ from the letter of the law, he will enforce the letter of the law because that is what he has sworn to do.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

$2.6m awarded against the NSW Ambulance Service

Paramedics administered adrenaline to a postman who suffered a severe allergy after being stung by a bee. Unfortunately, this was administered into the vein, causing a brain artery to burst.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported (note: registration required) that

The ambulance officers followed treatment protocols, ... and administered adrenalin in the only way they were permitted, into the vein. But the court had found this treatment was appropriate only in cases where the patient was close to death.

The situation is trickier for doctors. In the case of a doctor reported earlier in this blog, he followed the treatment protocol of the hospital, and discharged a young girl after she had a fall. The young girl later died of head injuries.

Now you'd think the doctor would be in the clear, given that he had followed the hospital's protocol. Not quite. The young girl's parents took action through the Health Practitioners Tribunal, citing malpractice.

Unfortunately, the legal position is still not clear, as the doctor pleaded guilty, saying that he just wanted to "move on".

(Note to foreign readers: Public hospitals are free in Australia, and there is always a shortage of beds. One can imagine these protocols are there in part to make sure beds are available for the critical cases. Doctors are in an untenable position here, since they are forced do make decisions constrained by scarce resources.)

Incidentally, Medical Indeminity Insurance does not provide for cases where malpractice was alleged. It only covers for civil cases.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Mentally ill Australian held in illegal immigrant detention centre

Today's ABC news reports that an Australian resident has been locked up in Baxter Detention Centre in South Australia for the past 10 months.

Rather than taking a cheap shot at the Department of Immigration, I'm going to take a shot at our legislators. Detaining people who are not a danger to the community on an indefinite basis is bad law. Bad laws lead to bad outcomes. Now that is a natural law.

Cornelia Rau's situation was made worse because she was missing from a psychiatric ward. I can't imagine being held as an illegal migrant did her mental condition any good1.

Unfortunately, voters do not realize how bad the law is since it locks up the 'outsiders', not Australians. Now that an innocent Australian had been effectively jailed, illegally, for 10 months, hopefully people will wake up to the executive's shenanigans.

1Normal people held in migrant detention centres over a long term develop mental illness.