Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Corporate Ethics

A story on corporate money being used to candlestinely influence local council election results, through supporting astroturfed organisations. Can this be legal?

Here Westfield (for US readers, yes they own the WTC) is accused of running a fake grassroots campaign against other property development companies, and tainting a competitor's project with made-up controversy.

(via Trevor Cook)

Monday, March 21, 2005

Detainees converting to Christianity to gain review of cases

In the news today, apparently detained refugees are converting from Islam to Christianity in order to get their application reviewed.

At stake here is the apparent prosecution of Muslims who have converted to Christianity, a prospect which they face should they return to their homelands. To be honest, I really don't know what to think here.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

No more anonymous political opinions in Australian Blogs

In this article - Bloggers face clampdown - Misha Schubert writes:
Bloggers and spammers could be forced to put their names to political commentary in a bid to close a loophole in the nation's electoral laws

(Via John Quiggin)

The relevant laws applicable are Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Cth) ss 287, 328, and 331.

Section 287 defines "advertisements relates to election if they contain electoral matter". Electoral matter means "matter which is intended or likely to affect voting in an election", and I suppose would include forms of political commentary, including satire.

The term "advertisement" itself, however, is not defined in legislation. Turning to the online dictionary: 2. A notice, such as a poster or a paid announcement in the print, broadcast, or electronic media, designed to attract public attention or patronage. There is no requirement that the person who made the advertisement to have any direct relationship to the product itself. However, it will be difficult to impress a court that a cartoon drawn by Leahy for instance would fit the description of an "advertisement" in the ordinary sense of the word, unless he was closely affiliated with the political party the cartoon speaks for.

Section 328 requires all advertisements to carry the name and address of the person who authorized the advertisement, and the name of the printer.

Section 331 requires advertisements in publications or journals which contain electoral matter to include the word "advertisement" in the heading. This applies regardless of whether consideration was given or not, and regardless of whether the publication is sold or given free.

There are two questions arising from these matters:

a) whether the websites are more akin to opinion pieces in newspapers, or more like political advertisements, or more like a letters to the editor section in a newspaper.

b) whether we are trying to shoehorn something as formless as websites into the known forms of publications. After all, all commentary seek to influence opinions and actions.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Mayor wants to fine weatherforecasters for wrong forecasts

Apologies for not posting a law article. This news report caught my attention today. The best way for the weather forecasters to get around the problem is to express their forecasts in the following manner:

80% of probability of a sunny day.
15% chance of rain.
2% chance of snow.
1% chance of others.


Friday, March 11, 2005

Barristers keep immunity to lawsuits

The High Court has handed down a decision which grants immunity for barristers and solicitor-advocates from being sued, however negligent their conduct. For the complete text of the judgement, refer to D'Orta-Ekenaike v Victoria Legal Aid [2005] HCA 12 link.

In this news report, the Victorian Bar Council chairman Ross Ray, QC, was quoted to have lauded the decision:
"It's not a decision to protect the advocate, it's a decision to protect the justice system," he said.

"The beneficiary of this is the administration of justice." [emphasis mine]

A little background: a man is was trying to sue his lawyers for allegedly giving negligent advice on a rape charge, which ended up with him being convicted and jailed. (Before you get worked up, these lawyers are good guys - they're from LegalAid).

Personally, I agree with the opinion of the dissenting judge Kirby J. I fear that while oiling the engines of the administration of justice, if the legal system is not seen to dispense justice, it will only serve to weaken the institution itself. Ultimately, an institution is made up of only people. It's authority is only derived by the respect of other people have for it.1 Ironically, it is now up to legislators to act to protect the justice system.

1Witness how the IRA has gone from being the defender of the Catholics to being the pariah of society in such quick time.

Links to other opinions on this topic:
FLAC, Barristerial Immunity , 2004
Richard Ackland, Majority Ruling gives Minnows Little Chance