Dr Scott Stephenson’s Holt Prize winning book launched at MLS

The inaugural Holt Prize book launch last week celebrated the publication of MLS Senior Lecturer Dr Scott Stephenson’s book From Dialogue to Disagreement in Comparative Rights Constitutionalism.

Awarded by the Federation Press, the Holt Prize is a biannual publishing award, which recognises excellence in unpublished legal works of an academic or practical nature. Dr Stephenson was the joint winner of the 2015 prize with Dr Giovanni Di Lieto of Monash University, author of Migrant Labour Law: Unfolding Justice at Work in Free Markets.

Held at the Law School on Wednesday 28 September 2016, the Holt Prize book launch marked the publication of not one but four new books. In addition to Dr Stephenson’s and Dr Di Lieto’s works, the Federation Press also decided to publish the outstanding works of two 2015 Holt Prize finalists, Ministerial Advisers in Australia: The Modern Legal Context by Dr Yee-Fui Ng, and The Duty to Account: Development and Principles by Dr James Watson.

Dr Stephenson said that his book examines the constitutional dilemmas that surround the protection of human rights including the democratic legitimacy of judicial review and the methods of encouraging legislatures to take rights more seriously.

“The main focus of the book is the bills of rights that have emerged over the last four decades in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK. It puts forward a view about what is distinctive about these bills of rights, and whether their distinctive features help answer some longstanding questions about the roles that the executive, legislature and courts should play in the protection of human rights,” Dr Stephenson said.

“My book takes into account the more informal ways in which legislatures and courts engage with each other. One idea is that certain benefits come from formalising the disagreements that occur between the arms of government rather than relying on informal mechanisms that have negative consequences, such as when courts are stripped of jurisdiction or parties are deprived of funding to litigate issues, as we have recently seen in the environmental context. To bring disagreement to the fore where we can have a frank and open debate about human rights issues rather than leave things in the shadows.”

Holt Prize

Celebrating the launch of the Holt Prize books. From left to Right: MLS Dean Professor Carolyn Evans, Dr Yee-Fui Ng, Dr Giovanni Di Lieto, MLS Academic Dr Scott Stephenson, Dr James Watson and the Honourable Justice Mark Leeming SC, Judge of Appeal, Supreme Court of New South Wales.

Professor Carolyn Evans, Dean of the Law School, introduced the prize, followed by the Honourable Justice Mark Leeming SC, Judge of Appeal, Supreme Court of New South Wales, who delivered opening remarks and acknowledged the achievements of each author present.

Justice Leeming described Dr Stephenson’s book as “surely the most provocative Australian study of human rights law that greets us.”

“Once you grasp Stephenson’s critical insight,” said Justice Leeming, “it is actually difficult to think about human rights discourse without using, or at least referring, to his approach.”

At the launch, both Professor Evans and the Honourable Justice Mark Leeming acknowledged the extraordinary contribution made by the late Chris Holt, co-founder of the Federation Press and after whom the prize is named.

“Chris was an extraordinary mentor, friend, advisor, supporter to so many of us. He gave many notable academics their first publishing opportunity,” Professor Evans said.

“I’m so pleased that this prize means his name will live on.”

Dr Scott Stephenson teaches principles of public law and constitutional law for the Melbourne JD. Learn more about our JD program here.

By Emma Jukić