Faculty Research Seminar Series

Melbourne Law School's Faculty Research Seminar Series is a place to present and discuss work-in-progress, promising arguments and early drafts to interested staff, graduate researchers and visitors

In Semester 1, 2021 seminars will be organised and hosted by Dr Scott Stephenson and Associate Professor Alysia Blackham.

The seminars are held weekly on Mondays during semester from 1.00pm - 2.00pm.

The presenter will speak for about 30 minutes, followed by time for questions.

2021 Semester 1 Program

  • 8 March 2021 - Rhian Parker (Academic Convenor of MAEVe) with Heather Douglas as commentator

    Ending violence against women and their children

    In recognition of International Women’s Day, the first Faculty Research Seminar will profile the work of MAEVe, an interdisciplinary research group run under the auspices of the Melbourne Social Equity Institute – our new neighbours on Level 7.

    The Melbourne Research Alliance to End Violence against women and their children (MAEVe) is a cross disciplinary group across the university which works towards research and action to end violence against women and children. It aims to bring together researchers from across the University in partnership with community, industry and government agencies, to tackle the problem of violence against women and their children. MAEVe strives to make a difference to the lives of women, families and communities by addressing and preventing the problem of violence against women through interdisciplinary and intra-institutional collaboration. Preventing and responding to violence against women and children is not the domain or responsibility of any one discipline. We believe that by working together we can be more effective and innovative in our ongoing efforts to end violence against women and their children. MAEVe is partnered with the Safer Families Centre of Research Excellence.

    MAEVe also works with a group of women survivors of family and sexual violence to focus on research priorities identified by survivors. The WEAVERs (Women and children who have Experienced Abuse and ViolencE: Researchers and advisorS) are women who have survived domestic or family violence informing, advising and co-designing our research. The WEAVERs group was established to ensure that the voices of women and children are central to the work of MAEVe and more broadly to the Safer Families Centre.

    Dr Rhian Parker is the Academic Convenor of MAEVe. Dr Parker is a sociologist by training and has spent many years of teaching and researching in the area of primary health care. Dr Parker has held academic positions at the University of Queensland, University of Melbourne, Monash University and the Australian National University.

    Professor Heather Douglas will kickstart the discussion and facilitate the session.

  • 15 March 2021 - Farrah Ahmed with Adil Hasan Khan and Scott Stephenson as commentators

    Secularism and Human Rights as Subterfuge

    It is no longer a surprise – if it ever was – to hear authoritarian or nationalist governments of our time invoking human rights or other constitutional values to serve their own ends. Such ‘appropriation’, ‘co-option’, ‘weaponisation’ or ‘spoiling’ encompasses a range of strategies for using rights and values. This paper focuses on strategies of subterfuge, where rights or values are used to disguise, conceal or mask the true nature of state action.

    When a government openly breaches human rights, they generally expose themselves to national and international criticism. Strategies of subterfuge pose a particular challenge because they are difficult to identify as such. Even when subterfuge is identified as such, it is difficult to establish, to the standard that courts, political institutions and the public may demand, that rights and values are being used as subterfuge. If the government is skilled at subterfuge, it may also be difficult to establish what precise goal or end the government is trying to disguise, conceal or mask. Yet these difficult tasks are essential steps for any political actor or member of the public who seeks to challenge such government action.

    This paper studies India’s current Hindu nationalist government’s defence of its new citizenship law in order to demonstrate the types of strategies of subterfuge that authoritarian nationalist governments may deploy and to demonstrate how such subterfuge – as well as the true goals of government action – may be identified and established. The paper focusses on three strategies of subterfuge which play a significant role in the government’s legal and political defence.

    The first strategy is the introduction and incubation of imposter versions of constitutional values. The paper argues that the Indian government uses an imposter version of secularism, rather than constitutional secularism, to serve nationalist ends. The second strategy is the use of human rights as camouflage to deflect criticism of the government’s true aims. The paper argues that, in debates about the new citizenship law, religious freedom functions as camouflage which hides the government’s goal of removing those it regards and ‘infiltrators’.  The third strategy is the invocation of pretended human rights precedents for state action which breaches human rights. This section shows, drawing on Adil Hasan Khan's work, how the government’s citation of the Nehru-Liaquat Pact as a precedent is unfounded and false.

  • 22 March 2021 - Christine Parker with Paula O'Brien as commentator

    An Impossible task? Australian Food Law and the Challenge of Novel Meat Analogues

    This paper argues that that the legislative remit and regulatory approach for pre-market assessment of new foods into Australia is too narrow to address the range of concerns raised about the future of food systems by the entry of new processed meat analogue products. We illustrate our argument by reference to the recent application by Californian technology company Impossible Foods Inc to sell its burger products containing a genetically modified protein that is said to make their burger ‘bleed’. Our argument is based on literature analysing the public discourse surrounding new meat analogues and our own thematic analysis of public submissions to the Impossible application. We analyse the relevant provisions of the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991 (Cth), the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code and Food Standards Australia and New Zealand’s (FSANZ) in practice assessment of the Impossible application to demonstrate the narrow scope and application of Australian pre-market regulatory approval for new foods. We show that Australia’s regulatory pre-approval process focuses almost exclusively on the safety of individual ingredients rather than the impact of new foods on the food supply as whole, and leaves broader issues to the market and consumer choice with limited support from laws addressing misleading labelling and marketing of foods. The regime has little capacity to engage with broader and longer term, social, ecological and public health implications of new foods and changing food markets. We conclude with some suggestions as to how food regulation and policy could address urgent issues for food systems policy. These issues will become more urgent as other new foods, such as cell-based meats, enter the marketplace and apply also to the preponderance of processed foods.

  • 29 March 2021 - Jeannie Paterson, Mark Taylor and Megan Richardson with Tatiana Cutts as commentator

    Algorithmic decision-making tools: privacy, data protection and consumer protection perspectives

  • 12 April 2021 - Adrienne Stone with Ronan McDonald as discussant

    Academic Freedom

    In this chapter from a recent book (Open Minds: Academic Freedom and Freedom of Speech) Carolyn Evans and Adrienne Stone develop an account of academic freedom that follows from the contribution of university research and teaching to public well-being, directly, though the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge, and indirectly, through support for free democratic government. To perform this role, universities in turn require freedom in research and teaching, broadly conceived, and an appropriate level of independence from government and other external influences.

    Having stated the principle in outline, the chapter then considers what it means in practice by focusing on the issue of public commentary by academic researchers, a context in which the two freedoms are sometimes confused. As the chapter shows, there are two circumstances in which academics should be understood to be relying on academic freedom: when speaking within their broad area of expertise and when commenting on or criticising university governance. In contrast, when academics make general public comments that are not informed by their academic expertise, academics are exercising their free speech rights.

    The distinction is important, because although academic freedom is narrower than a general right to freedom of speech, it is also stronger. When relying upon academic freedom, the position of academics is (or at least should be) quite different from the position of others. Specifically, academics ought to have much more freedom than other employees of universities to discuss their work and ideas and to criticise university governance. When exercising ordinary free speech rights, however, academics are more or less in the same position as other citizens and, specifically, other employees of universities. This still leaves them with a considerable and broad scope of free speech, but it is subject to a wider variety of justifiable limitations.

  • 19 April 2021 - Jackie Peel with Margaret Young, Ella Vines, Bec Nelson, Kathleen Birrell and Joo-Cheng Tham as commentators

    The Role of Law in Imagining and Responding to Climate Futures 

    This panel discussion moderated by Jackie Peel will discuss the current climate challenges that are facing us, showcase the contributions of research at Melbourne Law School and highlight the importance of the expert voice to better understand and respond to our climate-changed future. We expect the seminar to serve as a call to action for interested academics, students, and staff to consider their actions and contributions in the lead up to the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Convention on Climate Change in Glasgow (Scheduled November 2021).

  • 26 April 2021 - Christina Ward (Liaison Librarian)

    Keep The Receipts: Finding Evidence of Your Research Impact

    Where can you find evidence to demonstrate the quality and impact of your research? Legal researchers are not well served by “standard” citation databases that provide comprehensive details to other disciplines at the click of a button, and their impact is not reflected in widely used comparative metrics like the h-index or field weighted citation impact scores. However, supplying evidence of the reach and standing of your work is an inescapable task, one that can seem overwhelming without setting a strategic direction at the outset of your search. During her seminar Christina will share some tips and tricks on how to track down mentions of your work (both scholarly consideration and other attention), give a rundown of some of the different metrics and rankings available, and discuss the limitations of various metrics, databases, and ranking lists.

  • 10 May 2021 - Sean Cooney with Alysia Blackham as discussant

    Regulation of Digital Labour Platforms

    This seminar will discuss a global study on the impact of digital labour platforms (such as Uber, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Deliveroo and Airtasker) on work relationships. The study is the 2021 ‘flagship report’ of the International Labour Organization. The focus of the seminar will be on the regulatory questions that arise from platform work. The seminar will examine the study from three angles. Sean Cooney, who is the lead author of the chapter on regulation, will first explain how the project was conceived and carried out internationally despite the pandemic. Sean will then talk about the main regulatory findings and recommendations in the report. Finally, he will explain the contribution of the report to the new MLM course Digital Technologies and the Law,  which has just concluded. Alysia Blackham, who proposed and co-taught the course with Sean, will act as discussant.

  • 17 May 2021 - Heather Douglas with Jamie Walvsich as commentator

    Proving Non-Fatal Strangulation in Family Violence Cases: A Case Study on Criminalisation of Family Violence

    Non-fatal strangulation is recognised as a common form of coercive control in violent relationships. Overwhelmingly it is perpetuated by men against women. It is dangerous both because of the immediate and serious injuries it can cause, and the risk of future violence associated with it. A discrete offence of non-fatal strangulation has been introduced in many countries. Queensland, Australia introduced a discrete non-fatal strangulation offence in 2016. While the offence is charged often, around half of the non-fatal strangulation charges laid by police do not proceed. We spoke to prosecution and defence lawyers to better understand the evidential obstacles to successful prosecution.  We found that the prosecution of the offence faces challenges common to family violence offences more broadly, despite it being a discrete physical act. Specifically, we found that the willingness of the victim to testify and the perception of the victim's credibility were key to successful prosecution.

  • 24 May 2021 - Dr Jake Goldenfein

    The Life, Death and Afterlife of Platform Regulation in Australia – The Case of the News Media Bargaining Code

    The Australian News Media Bargaining Code was the first major output of the 2019 ACCC Digital Platforms Inquiry. Addressing a 15 year old global dispute about the distribution of advertising revenues between news media organizations and digital platforms, the Australian example made world news when, in response to the threat of regulation, Facebook removed news and government information from its social media service. Although the Australian government responded with tough talk on platform bullying, Facebook’s action achieved amendments to the code that, best case, turned a legitimate effort to achieve algorithmic transparency and re-balance bargaining power between platforms and content suppliers into a paper tiger, or worst case, legitimated the business of model of gatekeeping content according to platforms’ commercial priorities and entrenched reliance on the profits of behavioral advertising to fund public goods. This seminar presents a policy brief being drafted for Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in advance of a round table on comparative approaches to Big Tech Regulation. It discusses the normative foundations of the News Media Bargaining Code, its political life from 2017 ACCC Inquiry Terms of Reference to legal passage in 2021, and the issues left open, unresolved, or abandoned.