News & Politics
AQ: Australian Quarterly

AQ: Australian Quarterly 88.4 Oct-Dec 2017

For over 90 years AQ: Australian Quarterly has been packing its pages with the debates that have shaped Australia and the world, tackling the big topics in science, politics and society. Grounded in evidence, yet written in a style accessible to everyone, AQ is unique in Australia’s publishing landscape, pushing back against the trends of subjective truth and media spin. If it matters to Australia then it matters to AQ.

Australian Institute of Policy and Science
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4 Issues

in this issue

3 min.
a word

I wonder what feelings the word ‘Adani’ will conjure up in 10 or 20 years. Anger? Horror? Even if the mega mine does go ahead – which seems increasingly likely thanks to the sycophantic efforts of the Queensland Labor Government – it’s hard to imagine that a word associated with a 50-kilometre scar could inspire joy or a sense of empowerment in anyone. Yet if the legal and environmental hurdles do halt the Carmichael mine, a wave of exultation will run through communities across the country. ‘Adani’ will stand for the power of community action in the face of overwhelming corporate - and government - accusations of 'lawfare'. Heading up this edition we have a mini-feature on ‘lawfare’ in Australia; is, as numerous government Minister’s have claimed, the judicial system awash with vexatious…

14 min.
law, legitimacy and activism in the anthropocene

‘When they slaughtered Congress, we didn't wake up. When they blamed terrorists, and suspended the Constitution, we didn't wake up then either. … Nothing changes instantaneously. In a gradually heating bathtub, you'd be boiled to death before you knew it.’ In the real world, there’s a dominant narrative that we are blindly walking down the path to catastrophic climate change. But the truth is even scarier – we are being shepherded down this path quite deliberately. We may have taken a while to wake up, but ever since we did and began to object, our governments have been making ever-increasing use of state power to silence us. I reflected on this during a recent trip to Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef. Heron’s reef supports around 4000 turtles, while many more…

4 min.
battlers win when the law is fair

A victory has just been achieved on Queensland’s Darling Downs by the last man in Acland, Glen Beutel, which, the Court remarked, exceeded the fiction of The Castle. As well as a significant win for this community, the Acland case is a real life enactment of the cherished trope of the little Aussie battler, an archetype that has been placed under significant challenge in recent years. Big mining interests and politicians have sought to recast the Kerrigans and Beutels of this world as perpetrators of ‘green lawfare’ – an alleged abuse of the courts to delay projects. In Queensland, despite there being no ruling or evidence of this feared abuse, former Newman LNP Mines Minister, Andrew Cripps sought to slay this imaginary demon in September 2014 by moving midnight amendments to strip…

2 min.
book review: watching out by julian burnside

With the exception of Lawrence Hammill – affectionately played by Bud Tingwell in every Australian’s favourite film, The Castle (1997) – few practitioners of our legal system are as well known or admired in our popular culture as Julian Burnside QC. A noted barrister, human rights advocate and outspoken critic of successive governments’ policy of indefinite detention of refugees, Burnside is well placed to offer an overview of our fundamental legal principles in his latest book, Watching Out (Scribe, 2017). Like Malcolm Gladwell’s explorations of popular sociology, Burnside digs into the past, present and future of justice (and its frequent subversion) through short essays, autobiographical anecdotes, and evocative case studies. His passion for the subject matter and the succinct yet conversational tone make reading Watching Out akin to sharing dinner with…

8 min.
under-mining public trust the rhetoric of lawfare

Yet the ‘lawfare’ rhetoric being utilised by industry lobbyists is a dangerous attempt to erode public access to the courts, which further risks undermining public trust in government decisions. Certainly, there is a risk that some may seek to abuse the judicial system. In the context of planning and environmental law, for example, commercial competitors may seek to initiate legal proceedings without legal merit to delay their competitor’s project and gain some collateral commercial advantage. It is these sorts of abuses – frivolous and vexatious proceedings brought merely to delay and obstruct – that the term ‘lawfare’ would, on its face, appear to connote. Of course, there are many safeguards in place in the legal system to prevent such abuse, including: 1. the courts’ powers to strike out frivolous and vexatious proceedings, and award…

10 min.
2017 in science: the most important science story of the year?

So we can hardly blame non-scientists for getting a little bit confused when this mountain of data is cherry-picked, misrepresented, or drips intermittently across their newsfeed. Science has the potential to provide solutions to the world’s most pressing problems: Will the gene editing tool Crispr/ Cas9 cure or kill us? Why should I care about dark matter? Is global warming inevitable? And a question that personally keeps me up at night: Why is Alan Duffy always on my TV? The truth is out there but sometimes the facts can get lost in this tsunami of science. To ease your existential worry that you’ll never be the ‘suppository of all wisdom’, I have collated the thoughts of some of the world’s greatest minds on the year’s most important discoveries in their fields, so you…