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

2022 seminars are convened and hosted by Dr Tatiana Cutts and Dr Alice Palmer.

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

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

Semester 2 Program

  • 8 August 2022 - Christine Parker, Sundhya Pahuja, Brad Jessup, and Rebecca Giblin

    How to get the most out of your research centre, institution or network
    Venue: Room 202/203 and online via Zoom (hybrid)

    Did you know that MLS has a rich diversity of more than 20 research centres, institutes and networks? For many of us at MLS, they are a lifeline of mentoring, encouragement, support and inspiration. But we don't often get the chance to dialogue across centres about how we do what we do and what we might learn from each other. Today's seminar is an opportunity to find out about all the different things our various research hubs are doing, how they do it and what fresh practices are emerging post-pandemic. We aim to generate a lively discussion about to get the most and the best of our research centres, networks, institutes, whether you are an old hand or a newbie.

  • 15 August 2022 - Rebecca Giblin and Kim Weatherall

    Inoculating Law Schools Against Bad Metrics
    Venue: Room 920 and online via Zoom (hybrid)

    Law schools and legal scholars are not immune to the expanding use of quantitative metrics to assess the research of universities and of scholars working within universities. Metrics include grant and research income, the number of articles produced in journals on ranked lists, and citations (by scholars, and perhaps courts). Many working legal scholars are unaware of the full range of ways in which metrics are calculated, and how they are used in universities and in research policy, and unaware of the large and growing research policy literature highlighting the flaws and biases in research metrics. This seminar, based on a published book chapter, will describe the use of metrics in university and research and higher education policy (with a focus on Australia), and some of the known flaws and biases with metrics.

    We will also talk about what it might look like for academic researchers working in law faculties or on legal issues to assess research contributions that promote the shared values of the legal academy. Our focus is on two areas of research assessment: research impact and the bucket of concepts variously described as mentorship, supervision, and/or leadership. We reframe the questions that researchers and assessors should ask: not, “what impact has this research had”, but “what have you done about your discovery?”; not “what is your evidence of research leadership”, but, “what have you done to enable the research and careers of others?”. We also present concrete suggestions for how working legal scholars and faculties can shift the focus of research assessment towards the values of the legal academy.

  • 22 August 2022 - Tania Voon, Laura Puzzello, Andrew Walter, Phillip McCalman

    Foreign investment screening in Australia in context
    Online via Zoom

    The four panelists are together undertaking an interdisciplinary ARC Discovery Project commenced in 2020, examining global developments in foreign investment screening. In this seminar they will discuss one of their four country case studies: Australia. The Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 (Cth) was amended as of 2021 to enable further reviews of foreign investment proposals specifically on national security grounds. These amendments increase concerns of inconsistency with Australia’s obligations under international economic law. Australia’s continuing application of different monetary thresholds for review of proposals depending on the investor’s nationality also raises questions about the economic and political drivers and impacts of such differentiation.

  • 5 September 2022 - Kathryn James and Patrick Emerton

    The Australian Constitution as a Framework for Securing Economic Justice
    Venue: Room 920 and online via Zoom (hybrid)

  • 12 September 2022 - Brad Jessup

    Environmental Discourses and the Right to Farm
    Discussant: Christine Parker
    Venue: Room 920 and online via Zoom (hybrid)

    In this work-in-progress presentation, Dr Jessup returns to his geographic research on the topic of environmental discourses, a subject that is the focus of his edited collection with Pr Rubenstein: Environmental Discourses in Public and International Law (Cambridge, 2012).

    Environmental discourses, in the view of environmental political scientist Pr Dryzek, are ways of collectively presenting and framing complex environmental problems. They are vaguely defined and typically agreeable to a wide audience. They are used, according to Pr Hajer, as instruments to build coalitions for and opposed to change. Common environmental discourses include ‘climate justice’, ‘environmental sustainability’, ‘rights of nature’ and ‘technological fixes’.

    The research for the presentation explores the emergence of a ‘farmers’ rights’ discourse and its deployment during 2019 by NSW parliamentarians and populists to support laws that would: weaken native vegetation protection, create anti-protest offences, and exclude agriculture from nuisance claims.

    The research builds on this presentation.

  • 19 September 2022 - Associate Professor Andrew Godwin and Mr Micheil Paton, with commentary from Rebekkah Markey-Towler

    What is effective regulation? ‘Social Licence, Meaningful Compliance, and Legislating Norms’
    Venue: Room 202/203 and online via Zoom (hybrid)

    Associate Professor Andrew Godwin and Mr Micheil Paton, both working at the Australian Law Reform Commission’s review of financial services legislation, will present their forthcoming paper in a special issue of the Company and Securities Law Journal, titled ‘Social Licence, Meaningful Compliance, and Legislating Norms’. This article examines the concept of meaningful compliance with the law/regulation and how legislation might articulate norms and draw explicit connections between rules and norms. Ms Rebekkah Markey-Towler will then provide commentary on the article, including reflecting on a broader question that often, either explicitly or implicitly, motivates policymakers, funders and researchers: What is ‘effective’ or ‘good’ regulation?

  • 3 October 2022 - Jaynaya Dwyer and Eddie Cubillo

    What does community-control mean to our organisations today? Self-determination and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services
    Venue: Room 920 and online via Zoom (hybrid)

  • 10 October 2022 - Jianlin Chen

    Rape-By-Deception in China: Messy but Pragmatically Desirable
    Discussant: Heather Douglas
    Venue: Room 920 and online via Zoom (hybrid)

  • 17 October 2022 - Matthew Harding and Jane Norton

    Charities and Politics: Where did we go wrong?
    Venue: Room 920 and online via Zoom (hybrid)

Semester 1 Program

  • 7 March 2022 - James Parker

    What is Machine Listening? by James Parker and Sean Dockray
    Discussant: Jake Goldenfein
    Venue: Room 202/203 and online via Zoom (hybrid)

    ‘Machine listening’ is one common term for a fast-growing interdisciplinary field of science and engineering that uses methods from audio signal processing, AI and machine learning to ‘make sense’ of sound and speech. Despite the constant refrain from inside the field that it is still in its infancy — both underdeveloped and underfunded compared with other areas of data science and engineering — machine listening's history is one of rapid growth in both ambition and scale. This article provides an historical and critical overview of machine listening. The article is in two parts. In the first, we tell a version of machine listening's history: from its roots in automatic speech recognition (ASR) and computer music, through the field's gathering self-consciousness and institutionalization across the 1990s, to its considerable growth and ambitions for itself in the present. In the second part, we redescribe machine listening's emergence as a matter of politics. Machine listening, we suggest, is much more than just a new scientific discipline or vein of technical innovation. It is a new and expanding form of authority: a way or set of ways of knowing about, acting on and so remaking the world.

  • 14 March 2022 - Katy Barnett

    Owning Wild Animals: the Birds and the Bees
    Discussant: Jeremy Gans
    Venue: Online via Zoom

    This presentation will explore questions to which you’ve always wanted to know the answer. Does the Queen own all the swans? If not - what right does she have over swans and where does it come from? What’s “swan upping”? And then for the bees: if a bee takes nectar from your flowers, can you get compensation from the hive owner (spoiler - there is a legal system which says yes, you can)? Why do bees switch between being categorised as wild and tame depending on the context?

  • 21 March 2022 - Jake Goldenfein, Damian Clifford, Aitor Jiménez González and Megan Richardson

    The Right not to be Subject to Automated Decision-Making: Lessons from the Past and Present of Workers’ Rights
    Venue: Zoom

    An emerging tool in the movement for platform workers’ rights is the right not to be subject to automated decision-making, which in its most advanced formulation in art 22 of the EU General Data Protection Regulation 2016 includes ‘the right to obtain human intervention on the part of the controller, to express his or her point of view and to contest the decision’. Among other things, this forms part of the groundwork of a December 2021 European Commission proposal for a Directive on improving working conditions in platform work, with a mantra of promotion of ‘social dialogue on algorithmic management’. In this article we argue that the right not to be subject to automated decision-making can respond effectively to the mechanistic working conditions of the modern factory system. In particular, we argue that the right as expressed the proposed Directive on platform work has enough connecting it to the more general art 22 GDPR right to allow helpful synergies to continue. In framing our analysis we suggest that this right is best understood within the history of workers’ rights and should continue to be construed by those working for political and social change to demand democratic involvement in the design and operation of automated technologies and practices, with platformed workers at the vanguard.

  • 28 March 2022 - Matthew Bell

    Contract Damages for Defective Work: An Unsolvable Puzzle?
    Discussant: Wayne Jocic
    Venue: Room 605 and online via Zoom

    This paper considers how the law decides upon the appropriate measure of damages where there is a breach of contract resulting in defective construction work. Its focus is upon recent caselaw from South Australia offering a ‘menu’ of factors which can be taken into account in deciding whether damages based upon the cost of rectification of the work ought to be awarded. The paper is mindful of the enduring legacy of the tragic fire at the Grenfell Tower In London on 14 June 2017, significantly exacerbated by the Installation of combustible materials In that building, as a result of which 72 people died.  The paper posits, therefore, that, if such a ‘menu’ of factors is to be considered outside of South Australia, it should be an overriding factor, not bowing to other contractual measures, that rectification will be deemed reasonable to the extent that the defect threatens the health and safety of occupants of the building.

  • 4 April 2022 - Susan Kneebone, Anthea Vogl and Kate Ogg

    The role of community sponsorship for refugee resettlement in Australia
    Venue: Zoom

    Resettlement is one of three ‘durable’ solutions provided by state parties of the 1951 Refugee Convention, including Australia, in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Currently, there is a vast deficit of resettlement places globally: less than 10 per cent of over 20 million refugees are offered resettlement. Community or private sponsorship of refugee resettlement, practised by Canada since 1979, has been introduced in different forms in many countries since 2014. Australia which has a long history of resettling refugees with community support, has experimented with several community sponsorship programs since 2013.

    In this seminar, we explain Australia’s history of resettling refugees and recent experiments, which we will evaluate comparatively in our ARC Discovery Project (DP22). We explain how DP22 evolved and its scope; the legal and policy background of refugee sponsorship programs in Australia and how they are conceived and implemented. We focus on the need to develop effective state-community partnerships for refugee sponsorship in Australia.

  • 11 April 2022 - Jake Goldenfein

    Law’s Consumers and Platform Users: How competing constructions of humans legitimise online advertising
    Commentator: James Parker
    Venue: Room 202/203 and online via Zoom (hybrid)

    Platform business models are built on an uneven foundation. Online behavioural advertising (OBA) drives revenue for companies like Facebook, Google, and, increasingly, Amazon, and a notice-and-choice regime of privacy self-management governs the flows of personal data that help those platforms dominate advertising markets. OBA and privacy self-management work together to structure platform businesses. We argue that the legal and ideological legitimacy of this structure requires that profoundly contradictory conceptions of human subjects—their behaviours, cognition, and rational capacities—be codified and enacted in law and industrial art. A rational liberal consumer agrees to the terms of data extraction and exploitation set by platforms and their advertising partners, with deficiencies in individuals’ rational choices remedied by consumer protection law. Inside the platform, however, algorithmic scoring and decision systems act upon a “user,” who is presumed to exist not as a coherent subject with a stable and ordered set of preferences, but rather as a set of ever-shifting and mutable patterns, correlations, and propensities. The promise of data-driven behavioural advertising, and thus the supposed value of platform-captured personal data, is that users’ habits, actions, and indeed their “rationality” can be discerned, predicted, and managed. Behavioural marketing thus preserves a two-faced consumer: rational and empowered when submitting to tracking; vulnerable and predictable when that tracking leads toward the goal of influence or manipulation.

    This article contributes to two currents in discussions about surveillance advertising and platform capitalism: it adds to the growing consensus that privacy self-management provides inadequate mechanisms for regulating corporate uses of personal data; and it strengthens the case that behavioural tracking and targeting should be reined in or banned outright. The paper makes these points by examining this contradiction in how the governance and practice of behavioural marketing construct legal consumers and what we call the platform user.

  • 18 and 25 April 2022 - no seminars (Easter, ANZAC day)
  • 2 May 2022 - Jo Barraket

    Melbourne Social Equity Institute
    Venue Zoom

    Jo will be sharing information about Melbourne Social Equity Institute’s forward agenda and its implications for interested colleagues. In so doing, Jo will also reflect on pathways to research impacts through interdisciplinary and change-focused research.

  • 9 May 2022 - Dr Eliza Mik, Dr Shaanan Coohney and Professor Jeannie Paterson

    Smart Contracts Unpacked
    Venue: Zoom

    “Smart contracts” remain a largely misunderstood technological and legal phenomenon. What are they? What is or could be their potential legal and commercial significance? Are they contracts? Do they require novel regulatory measures?  More importantly: should we ignore them as an example of yet another technological fad or, given the elated descriptions in popular press and in (some) legal scholarship, should we devote our collective academic brainpower to better understand them? Maybe the sceptics are wrong and “smart contracts” will form the foundation of a new, automated economy? Some definitions regard “smart contracts” as noting but the back-end of distributed applications that equip blockchains with complex business logic, others associate them with the embedding of legal terms in software or hardware in order to control on-chain assets. A closer analysis reveals that “smart contracts” elude a clear definition and that the term has been used to describe a wide range of technical phenomena. Looking behind the popular hype surrounding blockchain-related technologies, this presentation provides an overview of “smart contract” fundamentals and examines existing legal and regulatory approaches. It also identifies the technical prerequisites of their mainstream commercial success as well as the potential risks of their deployment.

  • 16 May 2022 - Christine Parker, Sundhya Pahuja, Brad Jessup and Rebecca Giblin

    How to get the most out of your research centre, institute, network...?
    Venue: Room 202/203 and online via Zoom (hybrid)

    Did you know that MLS has a rich diversity of more than 20 research centres, institutes and networks? For many of us at MLS, they are a lifeline of mentoring, encouragement, support and inspiration. But we don't often get the chance to dialogue across centres about how we do what we do and what we might learn from each other. Today's seminar is an opportunity to find out about all the different things our various research hubs are doing, how they do it and what fresh practices are emerging post-pandemic. We aim to generate a lively discussion about to get the most and the best of our research centres, networks, institutes, whether you are an old hand or a newbie.

  • 23 May 2022 - Belinda Fehlberg and Monica Campo

    The meaning of home for children and parents after parental separation: Recent insights from a qualitative study
    Discussant: John Tobin
    Venue: Room 202/203 and online via Zoom (hybrid)

    In this seminar, the speakers will draw on their recent study on the meaning of home for children and young people in separated families to offer some insights of relevance to Australian post-separation parenting law and practice. The study identifies the centrality of relationships, safety, and economic resources in shaping home. The project findings convey the importance of listening to what children and young people — and their parents — say about home and homemaking after parental separation as a way of shedding light on what is most needed to support their adjustment and encouraging greater child focus when parenting arrangements are made.