Regulating privacy in the new genomic era

Friday, October 31. 2008
The mapping of the ‘standard’ human genome has created a vast multitude of new scientific possibilities. Genome research is potentially a very powerful tool for addressing any medical issue. It has the ability to influence our basic understandings of human life and complex disease. The results of Genome Research offer great promise for unraveling the causes behind various human diseases and providing fundamental improvements in the prevention and treatment of diseases. The transfer of findings from Genome Research into clinical applications which generate novel insights and new methods for therapy are likely to have an enormous impact on human welfare. Yet, despite the potential benefits of Genome Research and the hopes that this strand of research inspires in ill patients, there are many risks associated with Genome Research. Genome Research presents an array of ethical and legal challenges. One of the key challenges facing modern regulators is how to properly deal with the impact of genetic research and novel innovative genetic technologies on the safety and privacy of our personal information.

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In defence of compulsory superannuation

Sunday, October 26. 2008

The current fluctuations in the sharemarket might lead some to suggest that compulsory superannuation is an unfair imposition on Australian workers (e.g. Bagaric, When forced super gets cruel, Herald-Sun 2 October 2008). The basic point of this argument is that the public does not benefit from this forced saving scheme, since the sharemarket is inherently volatile and there are other more worthwhile investments (such as paying down the home mortgage). Forced saving represents an assault on the intelligence of Australians and is an impingement on personal freedom (encompassing personal responsibility for retirement savings).

While I would normally be the last person to advocate government interference in the operation of free markets (especially where this would indeed run counter to notions of personal responsibility), compulsory superannuation is not one such area. In a perfect world, all individuals would have both the time and the inclination to understand the financial implications of their decisions, would recognise that small amounts put away early on (whether in the sharemarket, on the mortgage, or some other investment) result in large payoffs later on and would be in a position to take charge of their own financial affairs.


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New Wave of Company Law Reform in the South Pacific

Friday, October 24. 2008
A new, second generation wave of company law reform is rolling through South Pacific nations. In the early 21st century, Niue and Samoa passed new company law legislation. At present, Vanuatu, Tonga and the Solomon Islands are preparing new company law statutes. All of the draft legislation draws on the New Zealand Companies Act 1993 but has been adapted for local circumstances.

Where did South Pacific Company Law come from?

With a few exceptions, most South Pacific nations followed the law of the United Kingdom. To be sure, the United Kingdom was a great exporter of law. So, for example, British law was first received in Virginia in 1607. Then, for approximately four centuries, British law spread to countries under British rule and came to regulate the lives of about one third of the people on earth.

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Time to call an end to the University spin wars?

Thursday, October 16. 2008
The University of Melbourne's obscene publicity spend bore fruit again this week, with a multi-page, colour insert in 'Education Age' (13 October 2008) spruiking its wares. This followed Monash University's high profile 'Passport' advertising campaign last week, and our own University's more modest re-badging with the slogan 'Infinite Possibilities'. Isn't it time for the higher education 'spin wars' to stop?

For one thing, whose money is being thrown away in these window-dressing exercises? Australian Universities are not private institutions, and the bulk of their funding over the years has come from the government, which in turn got the money from tax payers and fee-paying students. While all Universities are trying to boost their alumni donations in an effort to emulate the bank balances of the Ivy League American schools, there is no doubt that at least some of the money we see encouraging us to 'Dream Large' is, well, ours.

At a time when Universities are reducing staff, and crumbling infrastructure and over-crowded classrooms make delivering quality outcomes difficult, why are we wasting public funds in this way? What value is really being added to higher education by these profligate campaigns?

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Is Australia Responsible for Protecting the Human Rights of Asylum Seekers in Papua New Guinea?

Wednesday, October 1. 2008
In the second of the presentations in La Trobe Law's Colloquium Series, Dr Savitri Taylor looks at the question of whether Australia is responsible for human rights violations committed against asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea. Current Australian policy is to enforce borders strictly with respect to asylum seekers and Australia has entered into arrangements with its neighbours, most notably Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, to restrict asylum seekers from third countries from entering Australia. While these asylum seekers are detained in Australia's neighbours' jurisdictions, the question arises whether Australia is responsible for any human rights violations committed against these refugees during this period? Dr Taylor looks at the various institutional arrangements that impact upon these local arrangements, particularly those from the United Nations. Initial conclusions (this paper is part of a broader ongoing project) are that it is very difficult to hold any specific party accountable for abuses of the socio-economic rights of these individuals under current arrangements. Dr Taylor's paper and PowerPoint presentation may be accessed at the followng links: Paper and Presentation