22 December 2016


'Why Australia Needs a Motor Vehicle ‘Lemon’ Law' by Stephen Corones in (2016) 39(2) University of New South Wales Law Journal comments
On 30 November 2015, the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee of the Queensland Parliament tabled its report, ‘Lemon’ Laws – Inquiry into Consumer Protections and Remedies for Buyers of New Motor Vehicles (‘Queensland Lemon Law Report’). In its terms of reference, ‘lemons’ are defined as ‘new motor vehicles with numerous, severe defects that reoccur despite multiple repair attempts or where defects have caused a new motor vehicle to be out of service for a prolonged period of time’. 
There are three different bases by which a consumer can obtain relief in relation to loss or damage arising from the purchase of lemon motor vehicles. The first basis is where the motor vehicle manufacturer conducts an investigation and there is the possibility of a safety concern with one or more of the parts used in its vehicles. The manufacturer may initiate a voluntary recall of the vehicles in the range and repair the defect free of charge. If the manufacturer does not initiate a voluntary recall, the consumer can commence private action for relief under the consumer guarantee provisions of the Australian Consumer Law (‘ACL’) located in schedule 2 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) (‘CCA’) and adopted in the states and territories as a law of their respective jurisdictions. The third basis for obtaining relief is for the consumer to complain to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (‘ACCC’) or state and territory regulators for a contravention of the prohibition of misleading conduct in section 18 of the ACL; or for false or misleading representations by the manufacturer or dealer in relation to after-sales care, the availability of spare parts and servicing. There is also scope for the ACCC to bring a representative action on behalf of consumers to enforce the consumer guarantees. The ACCC has published a comprehensive industry guide on consumer remedies and obligations created by the ACL. Claims for damages or compensation for death or personal injury arising from lemon purchases are dealt with elsewhere in the ACL.

Reporting Impaired Practitioners

'Views on mandatory reporting of impaired health practitioners by their treating practitioners: a qualitative study from Australia' by Marie M Bismark, Ben Mathews, Jennifer M Morris, Laura A Thomas and David M Studdert in (2016) BMJ Open comments
 Since the time of Hippocrates, doctors have been bound by three core ethical duties: protection of patients (‘I will keep (the sick) from harm and injustice’); confidentiality (‘What I may see or hear in the course of the treatment … I will keep to myself’) and loyalty to the profession (‘To hold him who has taught me this art as equal to my parents’). Codes of practice for other health professions impose similar duties. These duties may conflict sharply with each other in situations where a health practitioner, during the course of treating a colleague, becomes aware of an impairment that may affect the colleague's ability to practice safely.
Since 2010, health practitioners in Australia have had a legal obligation to notify the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) if they have a reasonable belief that another health practitioner has practiced while intoxicated, engaged in sexual misconduct, significantly departed from professional standards or placed the public at risk of substantial harm because of an impairment (table 1). The purpose of the legislation is to protect the public, by ensuring that practitioners practice in a competent and ethical manner. Controversially, the mandatory reporting duty extends to practitioners who provide clinical care to an impaired practitioner, such as a psychiatrist who treats an anaesthetist with a substance use disorder or a neurologist who cares for a general practitioner with dementia. Such ‘treating practitioners’ and ‘practitioner-patients’ form the focus of this study.
Australia is not the only jurisdiction to have mandated reporting of practitioner-patients. New Zealand7 and some US states have similar requirements. However, three features of the Australian provisions make them unusually far-reaching. First, they apply to treating practitioners in 14 health professions, ranging from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practice to psychology, not merely to medical practitioners. Second, the reporting requirement is triggered by identification of a past risk of substantial harm, rather than future risks. And third, unlike some US laws, there is no safe harbour from reporting in situations where the practitioner-patient agrees to participate in an approved treatment programme. It should be noted that some exemptions for mandatory reporting by practitioner-patients exist in the states of Queensland and Western Australia, but there is none in Australia's other four states and two territories.
Mandatory reporting, especially by treating practitioners, is controversial. Proponents assert that disclosure of an impairment that places the public at risk of substantial harm is necessary to protect patients. Opponents argue that this approach deters help-seeking and drives impaired practitioners underground. The Australian Medical Association has led the call for treating practitioners to be exempt from the duty to report impaired health practitioners. A recent independent review of the national law, commissioned by the Australian state and federal health ministers, expressed the same view.
Debate over the desirability of imposing mandatory reporting requirements on treating practitioners has occurred against a background of scant evidence about the attitudes and practices of practitioners who encounter such situations. In deferring action on the recommendation of the independent review, the Australian health ministers concluded that ‘data is inconclusive’ and that further research is needed to inform a national approach. To date, the only empirical study into mandatory reporting behaviour in Australia found that such reports are rare events. Over a 13-month period, only 816 mandatory reports were lodged with AHPRA (18 reports per 10 000 practitioners per year)
One shortcoming of previous research was that, as a purely quantitative analysis of reports made to AHPRA, it had almost no information on the settings from which the reports arose, and the motivations and attitudes of the treating practitioners who made them. To better understand the knowledge and attitudes of practitioners towards their mandatory reporting duties and their experiences in dealing with impaired practitioner-patients under the new regime, we collected qualitative data from treating practitioners and medicolegal advisors in each of Australia's six states.
In discussion the authors comment
Australia's mandatory law has been the subject of vigorous debate, but the debate has occurred in a vacuum of evidence about the law's impact or effectiveness and the attitudes and experiences of practitioners in applying it. This qualitative study explored the views and experiences of 18 health practitioners and 4 medicolegal advisors on mandatory reporting by treating practitioners of impaired practitioner-patients. 
Purpose of mandatory reporting 
A major finding of this study relates to interviewees' knowledge of and attitude towards the general purpose of the law. There was widespread acceptance among interviewees that certain types of public health concerns can trump the general duty of patient confidentiality, as they do with respect to other conditions, such as child abuse and infectious disease, which are subject to mandatory reporting. Furthermore, all interviewees agreed that minimising the risk posed to patients by practitioner impairment—the public health policy goal which underpins the mandatory reporting law—is an important aim. Where interviewees diverged was with respect to the question of whether mandatory reporting laws are an effective mechanism by which to achieve this goal. 
Approximately one-third of interviewees opposed mandatory reporting obligations for treating practitioners under any circumstances, opining that decisions about reporting should always be left to individual practitioners. However, a majority supported mandatory reporting requirements for treating practitioners in certain circumstances. Among such guarded supporters were a number of interviewees who had experienced tensions and reticence when faced with the decision of making such a report. In their view, the existence of the legal duty provided practitioners with a ‘lever’ to influence the behaviour of impaired practitioners, offered protections to those who did make reports and underscored the duty to protect the public from harm. 
There are some internal tensions in these findings. On the one hand, some of the practitioners we interviewed opposed any kind of mandatory reporting law. On the other hand, everyone supported the overriding policy goal of minimising the risk posed to patients by practitioner impairment. How can these standpoints be reconciled? One interpretation is that practitioners have misconceived the nature of the reporting duty and its parallels with existing ethical duties to protect third parties from harm. Perhaps the kind of case they envisage as triggering the requirement to report is not, in fact, the target of the law. Indeed, the Medical Board has seen the need to issue a number of statements clarifying that the threshold for reporting is high and is not triggered in situations where a practitioner is compliant with treatment and any risk to the public has been appropriately managed. An alternative interpretation is that practitioners have adopted a utilitarian approach and believe that the good achieved by reporting practitioners with impairments—at least under the current regulatory system—is outweighed by the harm associated with discouraging other impaired practitioners from seeking help for their impairing conditions. 
Interface with clinical practice 
Another major finding is that, regardless of whether they supported the existence of a mandatory duty to report, all interviewees identified deficiencies in the way that the legal regime currently operates. These concerns focused on three areas: knowledge, content and administration of the law. 
Knowledge of the law 
The first concern was that, while the medicolegal advisors had a predictably strong knowledge of the law, most interviewees felt that health practitioners did not have a clear understanding of their obligations. (Indeed, it was apparent that the interviewees themselves, who were sampled specifically because of their familiarity with the reporting regime, exhibited a shaky grasp of some of its details.) Studies of other mandatory reporting regimes have also found that mandated reporters often do not have the required training to properly fulfil their role. A fundamental tenet of the rule of law is that a law must be reasonably intelligible, clear and predictable for those to whom it applies. Yet interviewees relied heavily on medical indemnity providers for advice on their reporting responsibilities. 
Interviewees also noted that it was difficult to access any case studies on mandatory reporting by treating practitioners or to obtain real-time advice on their obligations from AHPRA. This reported absence of sufficient education is a flaw in implementation. However, it is a remediable flaw. All practitioners need and deserve sufficient education about the nature of the mandatory reporting law, its context, purpose, scope and method of implementation. This will better enable effective reporting behaviour, limit ineffective reporting behaviour and foster attitudes conducive to relevant policy goals.20 ,23 One component of this training should be case studies demonstrating the range of potential scenarios and appropriate responses. In particular, concrete information on what constitutes a ‘substantial harm’ is essential. At present, far too much is left to the eye of the beholder. Such education would provide treating practitioners and practitioner-patients with the understanding necessary to ensure smooth operation of the reporting rules. Besides enabling reporters to fulfil their duties, it may help dispel misperceptions that discourage help-seeking among impaired practitioners. 
Content of the law 
The second concern was that the wording of the law failed to accord with the realities of clinical decision-making. Interviewees emphasised a range of clinical and contextual factors—not mentioned in the legislation—that need to be taken into account in resolving the three-way tension between patient confidentiality, protection of the public and loyalty to colleagues. This finding resonates with previous research on mandatory reporting of child abuse, which showed that a range of case characteristics influence reporting intentions. 
As it stands, some elements of discretion are already built in to the reporting duty. For example, the concept of ‘reasonable belief’ requires the practitioner to discern grounds for believing that the practitioner has an impairment and that, because of the impairment, the practitioner has placed the public at risk of substantial harm. If these conditions are not present, the duty is not activated and the practitioner is entitled to take other lesser steps to encourage the practitioner to seek assistance voluntarily. Seen in this way, the legal duty does already offer some leeway for choices to be informed by the clinical context and circumstance. However, practitioners remained concerned that the focus on past behaviour fails to take into account whether or not a practitioner-patient was willing and able to comply with an appropriate treatment plan. This finding is consistent with a recent review of mandatory reports by treating practitioners which found that most mandatory reports involve a practitioner-patient who lacks insight, is dishonest with the treating practitioner or shows a reckless disregard for patient safety. 
Administration of the law 
Finally, some interviewees expressed a lack of confidence in the ability of the regulator to respond to mandatory reports in a fair, timely, predictable and effective manner. This finding is consistent with results of previous studies that have found that failure to make a mandatory report is often associated with a belief that reporting will not result in an effective response. The concern is further heightened in the context of reporting an impaired peer. Involvement in medicolegal processes can be highly stressful, for whistle-blowing practitioners and for health practitioners who are subject to complaint. 
When regulatory outcomes are seen as unpredictable, or likely to exacerbate rather than address the impairment, incentives not to report, spurred by considerations of patient confidentiality and professional loyalty, are more likely to hold sway.  
Research in other contexts has shown that mandated reporters respond well to their duties, and sustain their intrinsic confidence and commitment to fulfilling them, when supported by robust and responsive systems. A sound regulatory system needs to possess sufficient oversight and responsive capacity and the system must not only require compliance by the regulated actors, but must demonstrate accountability to those actors. In this context, this could include (1) ensuring prompt responses to reports, (2) provision of information to the reporter about the resulting processes and outcomes and (3) appropriate and proportional responses to the concern, occurring along a spectrum from providing support and rehabilitation to disciplinary measures.
The authors conclude
On the basis of the findings from this study, we offer three recommendations for improving the operation of Australia's mandatory reporting regime, as it is applies to the obligations of treating practitioners with respect to practitioner-patients. These recommendations aim to reduce the tensions—real or perceived—between competing considerations of public protection, confidentiality and loyalty. 
First, greater efforts should be made to educate practitioners about the scope of their duty under the law. At a minimum, these efforts must provide practitioners with guidance regarding how they approach the more subjective elements of the law, including the concepts of ‘reasonable belief’ and ‘substantial harm’. In a recent case involving an impaired pharmacist, a Tribunal in New South Wales expressed concern that the failure to make a notification was “indicative of a failure to understand, or properly implement, the mandatory notification provisions in the National Law.” 
If many practitioners do not know the precise scope and function of the law, or worse, have a misinformed and an exaggerated sense of their reporting obligations, they are almost certainly more likely to view the law as a blunt instrument that is insensitive to the realities of clinical practice. Second, even supporters of the law should accept that it has a flaw that is out of step with similar regimes in other places and should be rectified. Under the current law, any practitioner who has placed the public at risk of substantial harm in the practitioner's practice of the profession because of an impairment must be notified, even if their condition is now being effectively managed. The reporting duty should be amended to explicitly assure access to confidential treatment (ie, no need to report) for practitioners who voluntarily participate in an agreed treatment plan and take necessary steps to protect patients from harm (eg, by limiting the nature or extent of their practice for a period of time). This would largely restrict notifications to situations where a practitioner is unable or unwilling to comply with an appropriate management plan and may therefore encourage help-seeking behaviour among practitioners with health concerns. 
Finally, regulators, practitioner health programmes, educators, insurers and professional bodies should work together to ensure that mandatory reports result in a fair, sensitive and timely response. Concerns that the regulatory response to mandatory reports is slow, stressful and unpredictable currently limit the willingness of Australian health practitioners to report impaired practitioner-patients. Little is known about the experiences of practitioners who have been subject to a mandatory report or the extent to which different regulatory responses may either exacerbate or help address health impairments. Greater transparency around likely outcomes of a report—as provided for example by the Legal Services Board in Victoria—combined with a more supportive and streamlined regulatory process would benefit practitioners, reporters and members of the public who may otherwise be exposed to a risk of harm. 
In combination, these three measures may bolster the public protection offered by mandatory reports, reduce the need to breach practitioner-patient confidentiality and help align the law with the loyalty that practitioners feel to support, rather than punish, their impaired colleagues.


The Queensland Ombudsman, in reporting on the practice of local government in shaming property owners by including their names in signage where a property is being auctioned to pay overdue rates, comments
In this chapter, I will consider the following issues:
  • whether council was required to include the homeowner’s name on the auction notice − was there an express legislative requirement? − should the relevant section of the LGR be interpreted as requiring council to include the homeowner’s name having regard to the intended purpose of the auction notice? 
  • whether it was a breach of privacy for council to include the homeowner’s name 
  • whether it was reasonable for council to include the homeowner’s name.
I will also consider the department’s role in relation to this matter.
3.1 Whether council was required to include the homeowner’s name on the auction notice 
There are two aspects to the question as to whether council was required to include the homeowner’s name on the auction notice, which will be considered separately as follows. 
3.1.1 Express legislative requirement 
Section 142(5)(d) of the LGR requires a council to display an auction notice in a conspicuous place on the land before selling it for overdue rates or charges. Council was therefore required to place the auction notice on the homeowner’s property. The issue is whether council was required to include the homeowner’s name on the auction notice. 
During the course of this investigation, it was agreed between council and this Office that there is no express legislative requirement to include owners’ names on an auction notice. 
It is therefore a matter of statutory interpretation as to whether inclusion is required. 
3.1.2 Interpretation of relevant section of LGR 
Section 142(4)(b) requires the auction notice to include ‘a full description of the land’. Council contends that this phrase should be interpreted as including owners’ names. 
During the course of the investigation, views have been expressed about the way in which the phrase ‘a full description of the land’ in s.142(4)(b) should be interpreted. These views have involved reference to ss.140(4)(d) and 154(2) and have previously been set out in this report. As such, I do not consider it necessary to repeat them here. I accept that there are arguments both ways regarding the use of terms relating to ownership and the description of property in the LGR. I consider, however, that other factors hold greater weight in terms of statutory interpretation in this instance. 
I consider that the ordinary meaning of a description of land does not include the ownership of land. Council argues that the notion of ‘land’ contemplated by s.142(4)(b) of the LGR is not ‘land’ as geography, but rather as property, in which ownership is fundamental, in that there is no property without an owner. It also argued that ownership of a property is an element in the legal description of a property and therefore omitting ownership would render the description less than a ‘full description’. While council has expressed this view, it has not put forth a compelling argument upon which to base its view. 
Council considers that if the legislature intended to exclude the owner’s name, it would have made it clear that the name of the owner was not required to be included to satisfy the requirements set out in the LGR. I do not agree that this is the case. It is my view that, if intended, the LGR requirements relating to the auction notice would have expressly included a requirement to include the owner’s name. 
Purpose of auction notices 
Council has argued that, in interpreting the term ‘a full description of the land’, the purpose of the auction notice should be taken into account and that the legislative intent was to ensure interested parties obtain notice of the proposed auction. It contends that, without the owner’s name on the auction notice, there is a real risk that parties with an interest in the land may not become aware that a property in which they have an interest is proposed to be auctioned. 
I maintain my view that the primary purpose of an auction notice is to notify potential purchasers and it is of little or no relevance to potential purchasers who the owner of the land is.17 I do accept, however, that a secondary purpose of the auction notice may be to notify those with an interest in the land. It does not necessarily follow, however, that including ownership details of the property is required to achieve this purpose. Council’s argument hinges on the presumption that those with an interest in land would know and remember the name of the owner of the land but would not know and remember the street address of the land in which they have an interest. I do not accept this argument. 
The discussion is not relevant in respect of the owner of the land, the holder of any registered interest in the land or any encumbrancee, lessee or trustee of the land who has given the local government notice of their interest in land, as council is obliged, under s.142(5)(a), to provide a copy of the auction notice to those parties. The receipt of the auction notice would alert them that the auction is of relevance to them. 
While council’s submission seems to suggest councils have an obligation generally to those with an unregistered interest in land, I do not consider that council’s submission sufficiently establishes that council’s obligations extend beyond those specifically listed in the LGR. 
Even if council’s obligations were wider than those set out in the LGR, those with an unregistered interest would know of the need for vigilance in terms of protecting their interest as they would be aware that, as their interest is not registered, the world at large does not know of their interest to advise them of any circumstance which may affect it. I consider that it is reasonable to expect that people with an unregistered interest in land that they wished to protect would be aware of the street address of property in which they have an interest and would therefore, without the need for inclusion of the owner’s name, have sufficient notice to afford them the opportunity to take whatever action necessary to protect their interests. 
A specific example provided by council is that an executor of an estate may not be aware of a particular property owned by the deceased person but may notice an auction notice which identifies the name of the relevant deceased person as the responsible landowner. One of the duties of an executor is to ‘collect and get in the real and personal estate of the deceased’. It is therefore incumbent upon an executor to identify, at an early stage of the administration of the estate, what real property is owned by the deceased. While in most cases an executor would be aware of what real property is owned by the deceased, if they are not aware, they would need to conduct a search with the Queensland Titles Registry to identify all real property in Queensland owned by the deceased. An executor would then turn their mind to what debts may be owed in respect of any property identified. In any event, for an executor to be protected from liability in distributing the estate, they would need to undertake newspaper advertising requiring any person with a claim upon the estate to forward details to the executor.  If the deceased owed rates or charges, council would, if it saw the advertisement, contact the executor accordingly. Therefore, other processes exist in respect of the administration of estates to alert an executor to any debts owing. 
I note that council’s submission provides excerpts of New South Wales legislation and examples of its interpretation and application. While the process for the sale of land in other states may be of academic interest, the New South Wales legislation is materially different to the Queensland legislation and I therefore consider it of limited value in reaching a view concerning the situation at hand. 
In summary: • there is no express legislative requirement for council to include the homeowner’s name on the auction notice • I do not accept that the term ‘a full description of the land’ in s.142(4)(b) of the LGR should properly be interpreted to include the name of the homeowner. 
I therefore do not consider that there was any requirement in the statutory scheme for council to include the homeowner’s name on the auction notice. 
I note that the department shares my view. 
3.2 Whether it was a breach of privacy for council to include the homeowner’s name 
Council and this Office agree that including landowners’ names on an auction notice is not a breach of privacy. 
The name of the owner of land is listed in the land record as referred to in s.154 of the LGR. The name of the owner of a particular piece of land is therefore a matter of public record. For this reason, releasing the information is not a breach of privacy. 
3.3 Whether it was reasonable for council to include the homeowner’s name 
While council’s inclusion of the homeowner’s name on the auction notice did not constitute a breach of privacy, it does not necessarily follow that this means council’s actions are reasonable. That is a matter for separate consideration. 
In arguing as to the reasonableness of its actions, council relies on its interpretation as to the purpose of the relevant section of the legislation, being to ensure extensive public notice of a proposed auction is given. As discussed above, I do not accept that the name of the owner is required to be included on the auction notice in order to achieve this purpose. 
Council acknowledges that including an owner’s name on the auction notice may cause significant distress to some owners, but would not cause distress to others. It argues, however, that the detriment to the owner is far outweighed by the utility in providing this information in the notice and by the legal risks of challenge to the sufficiency of the notice. I have considered the various scenarios put forth by council in relation to who may be disadvantaged by an owner’s name not appearing on an auction notice and in what circumstances. Noting the protections set out in the LGR for those with an interest in land, I consider that a circumstance where a person with an interest in land, who is minded to protect that interest, is worse off because the name of the owner does not appear on the auction notice would be extremely rare, if not, non-existent. In contrast, having regard to the number of sales of properties across Queensland each year for overdue rates and charges, the occurrence of homeowners being distressed at the appearance of their name on an auction notice displayed at their property is very real, as demonstrated by this complaint. 
Given my view, expressed above, that the regulatory scheme does not require the landowner’s name to be included on the auction notice, I do not accept that any challenge to the sufficiency of the notice would likely be successful. 
I accept council’s observation that not all property owners would be distressed at having their name on the auction notice and note that it would be relevant whether the property is their home. 
Complaints to this Office demonstrate that many properties sold by councils for overdue rates are the owner’s home. 
Many people would consider the inability to pay their bills, as and when they become due, to be a matter of shame and embarrassment. Distress is therefore a reasonably foreseeable response to the publication within a person’s community of the fact they cannot pay their bills. I also consider that it would be very common for a homeowner whose property is being sold for overdue rates and charges to have suffered a range of very difficult personal circumstances which culminated in them being in that situation. Many would be at a low point in their lives and more vulnerable than they would ordinarily be. The complainant in this case expressed their distress in terms of humiliation and the feeling of being attacked. Having regard to these factors, the level of distress possible from the publication of the owner’s name should be given appropriate weight. 
In weighing the chances of a person with an interest in land being disadvantaged by the absence of the owner’s name on the auction notice against the likelihood of it causing distress to a homeowner and the level of the distress caused, I disagree with council’s assessment that the detriment to the owner is far outweighed by the utility in providing this information. I consider the real potential for significant distress to far outweigh any perceived detriment to a person with an interest in the land not considered to be an interested party under the LGR. For this reason, I consider council’s actions in including the homeowner’s name on the auction notice to be unreasonable. 
I note that the department also does not consider it is reasonable to publish landowners’ names. 
While council has advised that its approach is consistent with advice from an eminent local government law firm, whether an action of council is reasonable or not is ultimately a matter of administrative judgement for council itself, with review oversight by this Office. ... 
 Having regard to the above, I form the following opinion and make the following recommendation: 
Opinion 1 The publication by council of the names of landowners on an auction notice is not a requirement under s.142 of the Local Government Regulation 2012, is unnecessary to support the sale of land process, and has the potential to cause significant distress to a landowner and is therefore unreasonable administrative action under s.49(2)(b) of the Ombudsman Act 2001. 
Recommendation 1 Council cease including landowners’ names in its auction notices. 
There are a number of other steps in the sale of land process which have the potential to result in the publication of a landowner’s name. One such step is the requirement in s.140(2) of the LGR for a resolution of council to sell land, where the landowner’s name could appear in the resolution, or material referenced. 
My comments as to the reasonableness of publishing a landowner’s name in connection with the sale of land for overdue rates and charges apply not only to where it may appear on an auction notice, but also where it may appear in any other publication. For this reason, I consider that council should review the information made publicly available under the sale of land process and, where relevant, ensure no unnecessary publishing of the landowner’s name. 
I make the following recommendation: 
Recommendation 2 Council review the information that is publicly available relating to land to be sold for overdue rates and charges and make changes to its procedures to ensure no unnecessary publishing of a landowner’s name occurs.
3.4 Department’s role 
Having regard to the inconsistent approach taken by councils in relation to this issue, I am of the view that the department should provide appropriate guidance to all Queensland councils about this issue. How the department chooses to do this is a matter for the Director-General. 
Department’s response to the proposed report The department noted that the local government legislation is silent as to whether a landowner’s name should be included on auction notices when selling land to recover overdue rates and charges. Accordingly, the department is of the view that publication of landowners’ names in auction notices is not necessary to ensure compliance with legislative requirements. 
I form the following opinion and make the following recommendation to the department:     
Opinion 2 Given the inconsistent approach taken by councils in relation to the publication of landowners’ names on auction notices, it would be appropriate for the department to provide advice to all Queensland councils regarding the issue. 
Recommendation 3 The Director-General provide advice to all Queensland councils to the effect that it is not necessary under the legislative scheme for landowners’ names to be published by councils in auction notices.


'The Law of Emergency and Reason of State' (LSE Legal Studies Working Paper No. 18/2016) by Thomas M. Poole examines
 the role of human rights in political emergencies. It introduces the concept of reason of state as an alternative to theories of emergency powers that are based on either state prerogative or liberal legalism. It argues that state prerogative and liberal legalism suffer from a common defect: both are premised on a dynamic of norm and exception and thus are poorly equipped to deal with the ‘pseudo-emergencies’ that dominate state practice today. Reason of state better illuminates ongoing legal and political dynamics by focusing on the state’s role as custos – a guardian or protector of the regime of law – and the pressures such a claim place on legal order. Viewed from this perspective, human rights adjudication can be seen as a mechanism for normalizing and constitutionalizing reason of state by subjecting its exercise to public deliberation, contestation, and justification.
Poole comments
One of the major juridical puzzles of our times is the role of human rights in political emergencies. This focus results largely from a change in political weather. But it is also a natural by-product of the coming of age of rights. Our more turbulent global politics has thus produced the first systematic test for rights jurisprudence. A common response to the puzzle is to approach it in terms of the opposition of rights and emergency and to map it conceptually in terms of the dynamics of norm and exception. This paper responds to the puzzle rather differently. It argues that much of what we have tended to group under the banner of ‘emergency’ has been misdescribed, and that the idea of ‘reason of state’ provides a more nuanced and subtle framework with which to make sense of relevant juridical developments. 
One reason to prefer the reason of state framework is that what we tend to be talking about is not so much real or genuine emergencies as pseudo- emergencies – that is, moments of heightened tension as opposed to more serious or existential threats. The difficulties faced by Western states in the last decade or so cannot plausibly be described in terms of a state of emergency or a state of siege without doing radical disservice to those terms. What is more symptomatic is the increase in, and perhaps more aggressive use of, a particular element of state action, which centrally concerns a special type of authority claim that is normally attached to a plea for special measures and which invokes the state’s capacity as protective agent (salus populi). This element is so enduring that I think we must take it to be an ineliminable part of political life. It is true that there have been meaningful developments in this terrain at the international level, not least the UN Security Council targeted sanctions regime. And profound questions have been asked at the supranational level, most notably in respect of the legal order of the European Union. But, for better or worse, the main locus of activity in this area remains the state. 
In former times, lawyers might well have been tempted to place the type of action we have seen within the sphere of the prerogative. That term is no longer appropriate, save perhaps as a metaphor. In Locke’s familiar definition, prerogative is a power to be exercised in the public good that operates extra et contra legem: that is, outside and against the existing framework of settled and standing laws. But governments today typically act on the basis of explicit legislative authority, or defend action by reference to a statute or regulation. They tend to operate, that is, for the most part within the existing legal framework. As a result, the problem we encounter lies not on the boundary where legitimate but extra-legal authority meets unauthorized political violence, but in the aberrant use of ordinary modes of legality for violent or morally dubious ends. Reason of state is a better guide through the modern configuration of what might once sensibly have been called the prerogative zone. Like prerogative, it is a concept with a considerable pedigree, not to mention baggage. But it is less tied to a particular jurisdiction or legal form. It can thus focus our attention squarely on what is important about this area, namely the idea of the state acting in the persona of custos, as guardian or protector of the regime of law – and the squeezing of the regime of law that seems to follow from such a claim. Getting the conceptual vocabulary right matters. Politicians, courts, and citizens continue to face difficult questions in this zone, and applying the wrong framework risks making various types of error. We tend to respond differently – socially and psychologically, as much as politically and legally – according to how a problem is framed. This intuition is explored schematically in the first part of the paper, which examines three frameworks that are commonly drawn on by lawyers seeking to make sense of developments in this area: political emergency, liberal idealism, and reason of state. As these terms are explained shortly, I will not elaborate upon them at this stage, other than to say that my general argument is that the political emergency framework overdramatizes the legal problematic we face and liberal idealism seeks almost to wish the problem away. The reason of state framework offers instead, I suggest, a descriptively powerful theory. 
The second part of the paper adds a more practical dimension to this conceptual study. It shows how the courts, for the most part, tend to avoid the logic of political emergency. Even where they are drawn into the language of ‘public emergency,’ as for instance when they decide questions relating to the exercise of a power to derogate from a human rights convention, courts tend to apply such language in an incomplete and half-hearted fashion. The recent jurisprudence on security matters makes more sense when seen through the lens of reason of state. Indeed, we have increasingly seen a wide variety of meso- and micro-level strategies and disputes, and these fit the logic of reason of state much closer than they do alternative accounts. 
We turn finally to the role that rights play in reason of state decision-making. The fit is by no means a simple one. There is always a danger that rights serve to do little more than normalize and justify potentially aberrant state action. But from a liberal pragmatist perspective, rights continue on balance to provide a crucial part of a strategy to structure and constrain reason of state behaviour. Their most important function is to help open up and keep open a process of legal-political discourse and scrutiny.

War Law, legal writing and discourse theory

The 72 page 'A Critical Assessment of the New Department of Defense Law of War Manual' by David W. Glazier, Zora Colakovic, Alexandra Gonzalez and Zacharias Tripodes in (2017) Yale Journal of International Law comments
In June 2015 the Department of Defense (DoD) General Counsel issued a 1,200 page manual providing unified guidance on the law governing armed conflict. Unfortunately, despite such positive attributes as an unequivocal condemnation of torture, it is badly flawed. Sporadic criticism, notably media outrage over its treatment of the press, led DoD to issue a slightly revised 2016 version, mostly making cosmetic changes to language about reporters.
This article provides the first comprehensive critique, noting the manual’s uncertain hierarchical status or legal effect given its express disclaimer to not “necessarily reflect...the views of the U.S. Government as a whole.” Stylistically, it is twice the length it should be, suffering from unnecessary repetition and internal inconsistencies.
The manual’s substantive shortcomings are more significant than its literary vices, including basic errors in international law and idiosyncratic views that are outdated, unsupported by credible authority, or even counter to larger U.S. interests. Its treatment of proportionality, for example, endeavors to shift the greater burden for avoiding civilian casualties from the attacker to the defender. It makes a poorly supported claim of a U.S. right to use expanding bullets despite widespread recognition as a war crime. And it fails to enumerate which provisions of, the First and Second Additional Geneva Protocols of 1977 (AP I and II) – are binding on U.S. forces even though that was the original impetus for developing a joint U.S. manual.
The article concludes that the volume should be officially withdrawn until it can be brought up to an appropriate professional standard, or replaced with a manual more faithfully serving the law, U.S. military forces, and America’s true national interests.
Gordon J in 'Applying reason to Reasons – start, middle and the end' comments
Contrary to many misconceptions, the completion of a draft is not the end. It is simply the start of another process – redrafting and editing. This means that the process of thinking, writing, and re-writing begins again.
For my part, I stop and ask myself the following questions:
  • Have I answered each of the questions I identified at the beginning? And, on reflection, were the questions I posed the right questions?
  • Is the draft persuasive? Go through and analytically review each finding, factual or legal – sentence by sentence – and ask "why?" Why is this necessary and have I explained my conclusion? If it is not necessary, remove it. If the conclusion is necessary but you have not explained it, amend the draft. Remember your audience. You cannot write any piece of writing intended to persuade an audience without knowing who your audience is. 
  • Have I written in the English language? This question may seem facetious, but it is important to ensure you do not write in some foreign tongue called "legalese". Write clearly, simply, using accepted canons of grammar and punctuation. This is always important. But perhaps even more so when it comes to administrative decisions, where, in many cases, the person affected by the decision will not be a lawyer. Of course, if you must use technical terms, use them properly. But using technical terms does not mean that you cannot and should not take time to simplify and clarify your written work. 
  • Have I left a small footprint? In other words, do not include things that are not necessary to answer the questions. Why? You simply run the risk of confusing the reader and muddying the waters.
After completing a draft, put it aside for a period. When you go back to it, print it out in hard copy. Do not read off the screen. Then, take a red pen in one hand and complete the following tasks:
  • remove every unnecessary word; Why? To make it clearer and more concise. 
  • remove every amplifier and adjective i.e., "clearly", "very", "most", etc; 
  • substitute the simple for the complex or formal10. For example, "cease" should read "stop", "endeavour" should read "try". There are many others. 
  • avoid legalisms and lawyerisms: For example, "adjacent to" should read "next to", "be able to" should read "can", "enter into a contract with" should read "contract with", "for the duration of" should read "while". Again, there are many others. 
  • provide it to someone who knows nothing about the draft and ask them to read it. If they cannot understand it, then it is a sure bet that the intended audience will have great difficulties.
I wonder what Gordon J would think of 'Beyond Edward Said: An Outlook on Postcolonialism and Middle Eastern Studies' by Govand Khalid Azeez in (2016) Social Epistemology -
At the forefront of critically examining the effects of colonization on the Middle East is Edward Said’s magnum opus, Orientalism (1978). In the broadest theoretical sense, Said’s work through deconstructing colonial discourses of power-knowledge, presented an epistemologico-methodological equation expressed most lucidly by Aime Cesaire, colonization=thingification. Said, arguing against that archaic historicized discourse, Orientalism, was simply postulating that colonialism and its systems of knowledges signified the colonized, in Anouar Abdel-Malek’s words, as customary, passive, non-participating and non-autonomous. Nearly four decades later, Said’s contribution has become tamed and domesticated to an extent that most heterodoxic critical endeavours in the field have become cliche´d premeditated anti-Orientalist tirades. At best, these critiques are stuck at analysing the impact of power at the macro-level, polemically regurgitating jargons like “hegemony”, “misrepresentation” and “Otherness”. At worst, they have become dogmatic or ethnocentric, closing space for scholarly debate through insipid cultural relativism, pathological religiosity or pernicious Occidentalism. I argue there is a need to go beyond that old postcolonial epistemological equation through examining the follow on effects of thingification on the thingified subject’s Weltanschauung, cultural practices and more importantly, subjectivity. I aim to undertake this critical endeavour through theorizing what I call Counter-Revolutionary Discourse (CRD). This discourse is an historicized, Eurocentric-Orientalist implicit programme of action and an analytical tool, which functions as a cognitive schema and a grammar of action that assists the colonial apparatus in surveillance, gauging, ranking and subjectifying Middle Eastern subjectivity and resistance according to imperial exigencies. Through tracking the matrix of Western statements, ideas and practices, I demonstrate that imperial enthusiasts in encountering Middle Eastern revolutions, from the Mahdi, Urabi, Zaghloul, Mossadegh, the PLO and the PKK to the ‘Arab Spring’, draw on a number of Counter-Revolutionary Discourse systems of thoughts, which I argue are responsible for re-interpellating Oriental subjectivity and resistance. In the process, I put forward a new post-Saidian equation that not only transcends that tried and tested scholarly narrative, but a formula much better suited for tracing the infinite and insidious effects of neocolonial power that aims to negate the negating act: Colonization=thingification +re-interpellation of subjectivity.
And from there we are into the land of wording such as 'sublate', 'doxographers', 'rupture', 'fissure', 'constitutive Lacanian-like gap', ' philosophico-ontological formula', 'Foucauldian disciplinary-biopower and Mbembean-Agambean influenced necropolitical', 'homology', 'dispositions', 'microphysical' ...

Counter-Revolutionary Discourse - an "unconscious yet material intersubjective ideological framework" - is characterised as
an "historicized, Eurocentric-Orientalist implicit program of action and an analytical tool, which functions as a manual that assists the colonial apparatus in surveilling, gauging, ranking and subjectifying” Oriental subjectivity and resistance according to imperial exigencies ... founded upon religious and missionary zeal, aristocratic pride,noble rapaciousness, capitalist greed, blind provincialism, racial hauteur, narcissistic egoism and delusions of grandeur.

20 December 2016


Commendably keen on whistles, but only those with the right pitch? The Minister for Revenue and Financial Services has today released the 'Review of tax and corporate whistleblower protections in Australia' paper for consultation, with responses due - surprise - in early February.

I do wonder why we are restricting the consultation to tax misbehaviour rather than whistleblowing generally.

The Minister's media release states
This consultation is the next step in implementing the Government's commitment to Australia's first Open Government National Action Plan and the announcement in the 2016-17 Budget that protections for tax whistleblowers be developed.
The Government is committed to the reform of whistleblower protections in the corporate and taxation areas. This consultation process will complement the Parliamentary inquiry into whistleblower protections in the corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors. 
'Whistleblowing plays a critical role in uncovering corporate and tax misconduct. It is a key means of combating poor compliance cultures, by ensuring that companies, officers and staff know that misconduct will be reported. Active protection of whistleblowers to encourage them to make disclosures is essential and the Government is determined to ensure it has the right legislative settings in place to achieve this, while at the same time ensuring disclosures can be fully investigated and that procedural fairness is provided to those who may be the subject of a disclosure' said Minister O'Dwyer.
The Treasury website states
In the 2016-17 Federal Budget the Government announced the introduction of new arrangements to better protect tax whistleblowers as part of its commitment to tackling tax misconduct. In addition, as part of the Open Government National Action Plan, the Government has committed to ensuring appropriate protections are in place for people who report corruption, fraud, tax evasion or avoidance, and misconduct within the corporate sector. This consultation paper is also intended to complement the work of the recently established Parliamentary Inquiry into whistleblower protections in the corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors. The consultation paper will assist members of the public in making submissions to either or both processes as it:
  • gathers together information about existing whistleblower provisions already operating in Australia, including those under the recent amendments to the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Act 2016, and overseas in major comparable jurisdictions; 
  • includes critiques of existing Australian provisions; canvasses a range of options for reform of existing protections under the Corporations Act 2001 and similar provisions under other financial system legislation administered by ASIC and APRA which apply to corporations; 
  • canvasses a proposal for tax legislation to introduce specific protections for whistleblowers; and 
  • identifies the variety of legislative approaches that may be taken by the Government to broader reform in this area generally.
The results of this consultation process and any public submissions received in response to this paper will be made available to the Parliamentary Inquiry. Members of the public are invited to address any matter raised in this paper and should not feel obliged to address each and every question. Submissions for this consultation will close on 10 February 2017.
The 44 page paper comments
Currently there are no specific legal protections under tax law to ensure there is no revelation of the identity of people who disclose, on a confidential basis, information about individuals or businesses which they believe may not be meeting their tax obligations (tax whistleblowers). 
Presently, the identity of tax whistleblowers is afforded some protection incidentally via the taxation confidentiality provisions pertaining to individual taxpayer affairs (Division 355 of the Taxation Administration Act 1953) and privacy laws. 
This protection is not absolute due to a number of exemptions under the law that allow for personal information to be revealed in certain circumstances, including when the information has been disclosed voluntarily by the whistleblower (for example, if a court compels the disclosure of the identity of tax whistleblower as a result of item 1 of the table in subsection 355-70(1) of the Taxation Administration Act). Neither the taxation confidentiality provisions nor the privacy laws prohibit victimisation of whistleblowers if their identity becomes known or provides compensation if victimisation occurs. 
In addition, factual information pertaining to the name of the taxpayer and the section of tax law breached are not protected even if provided as part of a report by tax or whistleblower lawyers’ that is otherwise subject to legal professional privilege. This is because factual matters are not protected by privilege. 
The absence of specific protections and remedies to compensate tax whistleblowers puts Australia at odds with comparable overseas jurisdictions which specifically provide for each. Nonetheless, the ATO encourages reporting of behaviour that indicates particular taxpayers may not be meeting their tax or superannuation obligations. 
Currently, members of the public can inform the ATO about anyone they know who is doing the wrong thing by avoiding or reducing the amount of tax or super that they ought to be paying. Information can be provided anonymously or on a disclosed basis to the ATO by online form, phone, letter or email, or by using the ‘Report a concern’ tool in the ATO app. In addition, a specific facility is provided to allow tax practitioners to report instances of unlawful behaviour directly to the ATO. If they wish to assert a claim of legal professional privilege they need to apply via a claim form on the ATO website which aids the ATO in determining whether to accept or challenge such claims.
Information provided to the ATO is actioned by the Tax Evasion Reporting Centre (TERC). The information provided is assessed and distributed to the relevant ATO compliance areas for consideration. The information may also be used to determine industry trends, identify new risk areas and to assist in developing compliance strategies. 
Some potential whistleblowers do not use the TERC process and instead contact an ATO officer directly. While the ATO currently receives and acts on disclosures, it has no express power to protect people from reprisals or other ramifications. 
The lack of overlap with corporate sector protections is also problematic. A number of tax whistleblowers have made disclosures to the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) in the mistaken belief that they are protected by provisions currently under the Corporations Act 2001, when in fact those provisions only provide protection for disclosures concerning contraventions of corporate, not tax, law.
It goes on to state
Statutory protections for whistleblower disclosures in the corporate sector are contained in Part 9.4AAA of the Corporations Act 2001 which was introduced as part of a range of corporate legislative reforms in 2004.
The protections offered under Part 9.4AAA in respect of any disclosure about an actual or potential contravention of corporations legislation: (a) confer statutory immunity on the whistleblower from civil or criminal liability for making the disclosure; (b) constrain employer rights to enforce a contract remedy against the whistleblower (including any contractual right to terminate employment) arising as a result of the disclosure; (c) prohibit victimisation of the whistleblower; (d) confer a right on the whistleblower to seek compensation if damage is suffered as a result of victimisation; and (e) prohibit revelation of the whistleblower's identity or the information disclosed by the whistleblower with limited exceptions.
To qualify for protection whistleblowers must: (a) be either current officers or employees of the company in question (that is, an insider) or contractors (including an employee of the contractor) to the company (that is, an outsider); (b) make the disclosure to ASIC, the company’s auditor, or nominated persons within the company 'in good faith' and have reasonable grounds to suspect that either the company, or some of its officers or staff, have breached (or might have breached) a provision of the corporations legislation; and (c) provide their names before making the disclosure (that is, the disclosure cannot be made anonymously).
If the disclosures are made to nominated company officers or to the company auditor, those people may identify the whistleblower and pass on the information disclosed to ASIC, the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority (APRA) or a member of the Australian Federal Police (AFP), or with the whistleblower’s consent, other persons.
Similar whistleblower protections to those set out in the Corporations Act are contained in the statutes below. These are available if the disclosures concern misconduct or an improper state of affairs or circumstances affecting the institutions supervised by APRA — Authorised Deposit-taking Institutions (ADIs), insurers and superannuation entities. (a) the Banking Act 1959 (Cth); (b) the Insurance Act 1973 (Cth); (c) the Life Insurance Act 1995 (Cth); and (d) the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993 (Cth).
Under the Banking Act for instance, a person may qualify for protections if the disclosure: (a) relates to misconduct, or an improper state of affairs or circumstances in relation to the ADI; and (b) the whistleblower considers that the information may assist the recipient of the disclosure to perform his or her functions or duties.
The disclosure is authorised if it is made to ASIC, APRA, AFP or with the consent of the whistleblower.
Similar requirements are set out for insurers and superannuation entities in the Life Insurance Act 1995, the Insurance Act 1973 and the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993 respectively, with some minor differences to reflect the roles of the actuary for insurers and superannuation entities as well as the role of the trustee of the superannuation entity.
In addition, a number of APRA’s Prudential Standards include requirements for ADIs to maintain adequate processes for dealing with disclosures from whistleblowers.
Accordingly, the comments or observations made in this paper about the Corporations Act whistleblower provisions could just as readily be made about the whistleblower provisions under the above-named statutes. Given the overlapping responsibilities of ASIC and APRA for corporate entities, albeit with differing regulatory mandates, submitters should give consideration in responding to this paper whether there is a case for reforming each of these whistleblower provisions at the same time as any amendments that may be made to the Corporations Act, to ensure consistency of regulation and that whistleblowers across the financial system have the same protections and obligations in making disclosures.
Protections for public sector employees or appointees are provided under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (AUS-PIDA), which seeks to promote integrity and accountability of the Commonwealth public sector by: (a) encouraging and facilitating the disclosure of information by public officials (‘public interest disclosure’) about suspected wrongdoing within an Australian Government Agency, or by a public official, or a Commonwealth contracted service provider. Wrongdoing may including contravention of a law, corruption, maladministration, abuse of public trust, deception in respect of scientific research, wastage of public money, unreasonable danger to health or safety, danger to the environment, abuse of position, or grounds for disciplinary action; (b) ensuring that public officials who make public interest disclosures are supported and protected from adverse consequences; and (c) ensuring that public interest disclosures by public officials are properly investigated and dealt with.
The disclosure can be made by a person that is either a current or former ‘public official’ if the person believes on reasonable grounds there is wrongdoing, defined as ‘disclosable conduct’. Public official includes public servants, Defence Force members, statutory office holders and service providers under a Commonwealth contract.
The emphasis of the scheme is on disclosures of wrongdoing being reported to, and investigated within, government. This emphasis is designed to ensure that problems are identified and rectified quickly. Where an official does not wish to make a disclosure to their own agency, the disclosure can be made to the Commonwealth Ombudsman or the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security. Officials can make disclosures to people outside government (other than a foreign public official) where certain criteria are met. However, a disclosure must first be reported internally to government except in the case of disclosures in an ‘emergency’ or to a ‘legal practitioner’ to obtain legal advice.
Qualifying disclosures entitle public sector whistleblowers to protection from exposure of their identities , and immunity from civil, criminal and administrative liabilities for making the disclosure . The Act also gives protections to public officials from victimisation and discrimination as a result of making a public interest disclosure. A whistleblower can also seek a range of civil remedies through a court including an apology, injunction, reinstatement order, compensation for loss or damage, and costs.


Blink and you've missed it, in one of those strategically-timed consultations. The Attorney-General’s Department is inviting submissions to support a review by the Minister for Communications and the Attorney-General into access to telecommunications data in civil proceedings.

The A-G's site states
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security Advisory report on the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014, recommended that civil litigants be prohibited from being able to access telecommunications data held by a service provider solely for the purpose of complying with the mandatory data retention regime. 
The committee considered that as the data retention regime was established specifically for law enforcement and national security purposes, as a general principle it would be inappropriate for data retained under the scheme to be drawn on as a new source of evidence in civil proceedings. 
However, the committee also indicated that it was aware of the potential for unintended consequences resulting from a prohibition on courts authorising access to data retained under the scheme and recommended that the Minister for Communications and the Attorney-General review this measure. 
Consequently, section 280 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 was amended such that data retained solely for the purposes of the data retention scheme cannot be used for civil proceedings. That prohibition commences on 13 April 2017. The provision includes a regulation making power to enable appropriate exceptions to be made.
The brief paper released as part of the invitation states
In essence, the legislation is designed to preserve the longstanding power of courts to order access to relevant telecommunications data in civil proceedings while limiting access to data that has been retained solely for the purposes of the data retention scheme. The Committee’s recommendation to include a regulation-making power, which the Government accepted, is designed to mitigate the risk that restricting parties to civil proceedings’ access to such data could adversely impact the effective operation of the civil justice system, or the rights or interests of parties to civil proceedings. 
The Department of Communications and the Arts and the Attorney-General’s Department are seeking the views of stakeholders with an interest in the civil justice system and privacy to support the Minister for Communications and the Attorney-General in their review of the prohibition and regulation-making power. In particular, the departments are interested in views about the following questions:
1. In what circumstances do parties to civil proceedings currently request access to telecommunications data in the data set outlined in section 187AA of the TIA Act (refer to Attachment A [below])? 
2. What, if any, impact would there be on civil proceedings if parties were unable to access the telecommunications data set as outlined in section 187AA of the TIA Act? 
3. Are there particular kinds of civil proceedings or circumstances in which the prohibition in section 280(1B) of the Telecommunications Act 1997 should not apply?
The Attachment reads
Topic  1 The subscriber of, and accounts, services, telecommunications devices and other relevant services relating to, the relevant service
Description of information for Topic 1 The following: (a) any information that is one or both of the following: (i) any name or address information; (ii) any other information for identification purposes; relating to the relevant service, being information used by the service provider for the purposes of identifying the subscriber of the relevant service; (b) any information relating to any contract, agreement or arrangement relating to the relevant service, or to any related account, service or device; (c) any information that is one or both of the following: (i) billing or payment information; (ii) contact information; relating to the relevant service, being information used by the service provider in relation to the relevant service; (d) any identifiers relating to the relevant service or any related account, service or device, being information used by the service provider in relation to the relevant service or any related account, service or device; (e) the status of the relevant service, or any related account, service or device. 
Topic 2 The source of a communication
Description of information for Topic 2 Identifiers of a related account, service or device from which the communication has been sent by means of the relevant service.
Topic 3 The destination of a communication 
Description of information for Topic 3 Identifiers of the account, telecommunications device or relevant service to which the communication: (a) has been sent; or (b) has been forwarded, routed or transferred, or attempted to be forwarded, routed or transferred. 
Topic 4 The date, time and duration of a communication, or of its connection to a relevant service 
Description of information for Topic 4 The date and time (including the time zone) of the following relating to the communication (with sufficient accuracy to identify the communication): (a) the start of the communication; (b) the end of the communication; (c) the connection to the relevant service; (d) the disconnection from the relevant service.  
Topic 5 The type of a communication or of a relevant service used in connection with a communication 
Description of information for Topic 5 The following: (a) the type of communication; Examples: Voice, SMS, email, chat, forum, social media. (b) the type of the relevant service; Examples: ADSL, Wi-Fi, VoIP, cable, GPRS, VoLTE, LTE. (c) the features of the relevant service that were, or would have been, used by or enabled for the communication. Examples: Call waiting, call forwarding, data volume usage. Note: This item will only apply to the service provider operating the relevant service: see paragraph 187A(4)(c). 
Topic 6 The location of equipment, or a line, used in connection with a communication 
Description of information for Topic 6 The following in relation to the equipment or line used to send or receive the communication: (a) the location of the equipment or line at the start of the communication; (b) the location of the equipment or line at the end of the communication. Examples: Cell towers, Wi-Fi hotspots.

Pharma Data and Patents

In discussing patents today's Productivity Commission report on Intellectual Property Arrangements comments
Pharmaceuticals — a better policy prescription 
The pharmaceutical sector relies on IP protection more than most, since many pharmaceutical advances require large upfront investment in research and development and are easy to copy. In addition to the standard suite of IP protections, the pharmaceutical sector benefits from bespoke IP arrangements.
Extensions of term
Further to the 20 year term applying to all patents, pharmaceutical patents can qualify for an additional five years of protection. Extensions of term (EoT) are capped at an effective market life of 15 years. These bespoke arrangements were intended to attract pharmaceutical research and development investment to Australia and to improve incentives for innovation by providing an effective market life for pharmaceuticals more in line with other technologies.
However, Australia’s EoT scheme has had little effect on investment and innovation; Australia represents a meagre 0.3 per cent of global spending on pharmaceutical research and development. As pharmaceutical companies have acknowledged, the prospect of future returns in such a small market (accounting for only 2 per cent of global pharmaceutical revenues) provides little in the way of additional incentive. Moreover, the benefits sought from EoT arrangements have proven largely illusory, resulting in a costly policy placebo. Poor targeting means that more than half of new chemical entities approved for sale in Australia enjoy an extension in patent term, and consumers and governments face higher prices for medicines.
Rather than compensating firms for being slow to introduce drugs to the Australian market, extensions should only be allowed where the actions of the regulator result in an unreasonable delay. Timeframes (of around one year) set by Government for the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) provide a ready benchmark for determining what constitutes a reasonable processing period. EoT should only be granted where the time taken by the regulator exceeds this period. The Commission estimates that this approach would lower the cost of pharmaceuticals in Australia and save consumers and taxpayers more than $250 million per year.
Sharing rather than protecting data
The confidential data submitted in support of regulatory approval processes are also protected for a period of five years. During this period, manufacturers of generic pharmaceuticals must independently prove that their products are safe and effective, even though they are chemically identical to already approved drugs.
Pharmaceutical companies have pressed the Australian Government to extend the duration of data protection. They view data protection as an insurance policy to guard against what they see as inadequate patent protection. Most recently, negotiations for the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement saw (unsuccessful) calls to extend data protection for biologics from 5 to 12 years.
Despite decade long claims of inadequate patent protection, there is little evidence of a problem. Even if isolated cases were verified as genuine, extending protection to a broad class of products to address exceptional cases would represent a blunt and costly response. And using data protection as a proxy for patent protection has drawbacks. Beyond the obvious absence of disclosure of information to promote further innovation, data protection lacks other important balances that apply to patents. Data protection arises automatically and cannot be challenged in court.
As well as there being strong grounds for resisting further calls to extend the period of data protection, there is a case for making data more widely available. At present, not only are follow on manufacturers prevented from relying on clinical data for a period of five years, the data is kept confidential indefinitely. Allowing researchers access to this data could provide substantial public health benefits. But doing so unilaterally would have some downsides. Companies may respond by delaying the release of medicines in the Australian market. Accordingly, any moves to publish the relevant data need to be internationally coordinated.
Reducing the scope for strategic behaviour
The ability of companies to leverage their IP rights to forestall entry by generics — effectively extending the term of exclusivity — can have a significant negative impact on consumers and (through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)) on taxpayers. Firms can use a variety of strategies to further extend the commercial life of their products including (so called) evergreening and pay for delay.
Evergreening refers to the strategy of obtaining multiple patents that cover different aspects of the same product, typically on improved versions of existing products. Some of these patents relate to genuine improvements that increase consumer wellbeing, such as significantly reducing side effects of certain medications. However, some ‘improvements’ may involve a slightly different chemical combination or process of production, which show no appreciable difference to the user. An additional benefit of changing the inventive step is it would reduce the scope for the latter type of behaviour — by granting new patents only for genuinely inventive products.
Pay for delay refers to the practice whereby patent holders pay generic manufacturers, as part of a settlement for a patent infringement case, to keep their products off the market beyond the scope of a patent. Delays of this kind limit competition by restricting the number of products on the market and any subsequent price reductions, including those triggered under the PBS.
In contrast to the US and Europe, which have arrangements to detect suspect agreements, Australia has taken a ‘see no evil’ approach to pay for delay settlements. A transparent reporting and monitoring system should be put in place to detect pay for delay settlements. This would require reporting to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) settlement arrangements between originator and follower pharmaceutical companies that affect the timing of market entry for a generic version of a product into the Australian market. To minimise compliance and transition costs, monitoring arrangements should be based on those employed by the US Federal Trade Commission.

Steely resolve in IP Reform?

The Productivity Commission's report on Intellectual Property Arrangements features the following unsurprising points 'key points' -
• Australia’s intellectual property (IP) arrangements fall short in many ways and improvement is needed across the spectrum of IP rights. 
• IP arrangements need to ensure that creators and inventors are rewarded for their efforts, but in doing so they must:
− foster creative endeavour and investment in IP that would not otherwise occur 
− only provide the incentive needed to induce that additional investment or endeavour 
− resist impeding follow–on innovation, competition and access to goods and services. 
• Australia’s patent system grants exclusivity too readily, allowing a proliferation of low quality patents, frustrating follow–on innovators and stymieing competition.
− To raise patent quality, the Australian Government should increase the degree of invention required to receive a patent, abolish the failed innovation patent, reconfigure costly extensions of term for pharmaceutical patents, and better structure patent fees. 
• Copyright is broader in scope and longer in duration than needed 
— innovative firms, universities and schools, and consumers bear the cost. 
− Introducing a system of user rights, including the (well-established) principles–based fair use exception, would go some way to redress this imbalance. 
• Timely and cost effective access to copyright content is the best way to reduce infringement. The Australian Government should make it easier for users to access legitimate content by:
− clarifying the law on geoblocking  
− repealing parallel import restrictions on books. New analysis reveals that Australian readers still pay more than those in the UK for a significant share of books. 
• Commercial transactions involving IP rights should be subject to competition law. The current exemption under the Competition and Consumer Act is based on outdated views and should be repealed. 
• While Australia’s enforcement system works relatively well, reform is needed to improve access, especially for small– and medium–sized enterprises. 
− Introducing (and resourcing) a specialist IP list within the Federal Circuit Court (akin to the UK model) would provide a timely and low cost option for resolving IP disputes. 
• The absence of an overarching objective, policy framework and reform champion has contributed to Australia losing its way on IP policy. 
− Better governance arrangements are needed for a more coherent and balanced approach to IP policy development and implementation. 
• International commitments substantially constrain Australia’s IP policy flexibility. 
− The Australian Government should focus its international IP engagement on reducing transaction costs for parties using IP rights in multiple jurisdictions and encouraging more balanced policy arrangements for patents and copyright. 
− An overdue review of TRIPS by the WTO would be a helpful first step. 
• Reform efforts have more often than not succumbed to misinformation and scare campaigns. Steely resolve will be needed to pursue better balanced IP arrangements.
The Commission offers the following recommendations and findings -
An analytical framework for assessing the IP system 
Recommendation 2.1 In formulating intellectual property policy, the Australian Government should be informed by a robust evidence base and be guided by the principles of: 
• effectiveness, which balances providing protection to encourage additional innovation (which would not have otherwise occurred) and allowing ideas to be disseminated widely • efficiency, which balances returns to innovators and to the wider community • adaptability, which balances providing policy certainty and having a system that is agile in response to change • accountability, which balances the cost of collecting and analysing policy–relevant information against the benefits of having transparent and evidence–based policy that considers community wellbeing. 
Copyright term and scope 
Finding 4.1 The scope and term of copyright protection in Australia has expanded over time, often with no transparent evidence-based analysis, and is now skewed too far in favour of copyright holders. While a single optimal copyright term is arguably elusive, it is likely to be considerably less than 70 years after death. 
Copyright use and licensing 
RECOMMENDATION 5.1 The Australian Government should amend the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) to: • make unenforceable any part of an agreement restricting or preventing a use of copyright material that is permitted by a copyright exception • permit consumers to circumvent technological protection measures for legitimate uses of copyright material. 
Recommendation 5.2 The Australian Government should: • amend the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) to make clear that it is not an infringement for consumers to circumvent geoblocking technology, as recommended in the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications’ report At What Cost? IT pricing and the Australia tax • avoid any international agreements that would prevent or ban consumers from circumventing geoblocking technology. 
Recommendation 5.3 The Australian Government should proceed to repeal parallel import restrictions for books to take effect no later than the end of 2017. 
Recommendation 5.4 The Australian Government should strengthen the governance and transparency arrangements for collecting societies. In particular: • The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission should undertake a review of the current code, assessing its efficacy in balancing the interests of copyright collecting societies and licensees. • The review should consider whether the current voluntary code: represents best practice, contains sufficient monitoring and review mechanisms, and if the code should be mandatory for all collecting societies. 
Fair use or fair dealing — what is fair for Australia? 
Recommendation 6.1 The Australian Government should accept and implement the Australian Law Reform Commission’s final recommendations regarding a fair use exception in Australia. 
Recommendation 6.2 The Australian Government should enact the Australian Law Reform Commission recommendations to limit liability for the use of orphan works, where a user has undertaken a diligent search to locate the relevant rights holder. 
The patent system — getting the fundamentals right 
Recommendation 7.1 The Australian Government should incorporate an objects clause into the Patents Act 1990 (Cth). The objects clause should describe the purpose of the legislation as enhancing the wellbeing of Australians by promoting technological innovation and the transfer and dissemination of technology. In so doing, the patent system should balance over time the interests of producers, owners and users of technology. 
Finding 7.1 The Raising the Bar initiative moved the inventive step and other elements of patent law in the right direction by raising the threshold for granting a patent. There is a strong case, however, for further raising the threshold. 
Recommendation 7.2 The Australian Government should amend ss. 7(2) and 7(3) of the Patents Act 1990 (Cth) such that an invention is taken to involve an inventive step if, having regard to the prior art base, it is not obvious to a person skilled in the relevant art. The Explanatory Memorandum should state: • a ‘scintilla’ of invention, or a scenario where the skilled person would not ‘directly be led as a matter of course’, are insufficient thresholds for meeting the inventive step • the ‘obvious to try’ test applied in Europe would in some instances be a suitable test. IP Australia should update the Australian Patent Office Manual of Practice and Procedure such that it will consider the technical features of an invention for the purpose of the inventive step and novelty tests. 
Recommendation 7.3 IP Australia should reform its patent filing processes to require applicants to identify the technical features of the invention in the set of claims. 
Recommendation 7.4 The Australian Government and IP Australia should set patent fees to promote broader intellectual property policy objectives, rather than the current primary objective of achieving cost recovery. To this end, the Australian Government, with input from IP Australia, should: • restructure patent renewal fees such that they rise each year at an increasing rate (including years in which patents receive an extension of term) — fees later in the life of a patent would well exceed current levels • reduce the initial threshold for claim fees, and increase claim fees for applications with a large number of claims. 
The innovation patent system 
Recommendation 8.1 The Australian Government should abolish the innovation patent system. Chapter 9: Business method patents and software patents 
Finding 9.1 Raising the inventive step, requiring technical features in patent claims, and the inclusion of an objects clause would better balance the patent rights of software innovators and users. 
Pharmaceuticals - getting the right policy prescription 
Recommendation 10.1 The Australian Government should reform extensions of patent term for pharmaceuticals such that they are only: (i) available for patents covering an active pharmaceutical ingredient, and (ii) calculated based on the time taken by the Therapeutic Goods Administration for regulatory approval over and above 255 working days (one year). The Australian Government should reform s. 76A of the Patents Act 1990 (Cth) to improve data collection requirements for extensions of term, drawing on the model applied in Canada. Thereafter no extensions of term should be granted until data is received in a satisfactory form. 
Finding 10.1 There are no grounds to extend the period of data protection for any pharmaceutical products, including biologics. 
Recommendation 10.2 The Australian Government should introduce a system for transparent reporting and monitoring of settlements between originator and generic pharmaceutical companies to detect potential pay for delay agreements. This system should be based on the model used in the United States, administered by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, and include guidelines on the approach to monitoring as part of the broader guidance on the application of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) to intellectual property (recommendation 15.1). The monitoring should operate for a period of five years. Following this period, the Australian Government should review the regulation of pay for delay agreements (and other potentially anticompetitive arrangements specific to the pharmaceutical sector). 
Registered designs 
Finding 11.1 The Australian Government has committed to implement many of the recommendations made by the Advisory Council on Intellectual Property in its recent review of Australia’s designs system. These measures will help address participant concerns about the cost of acquiring registered design rights, and the lack of understanding of design law. Recommendation 19.2 provides for a low-cost avenue for IP enforcement currently sought by designers. 
Trade marks and geographical indications 
Recommendation 12.1 The Australian Government should amend the Trade Marks Act 1995 (Cth) to:
• reduce the grace period from 5 years to 3 years before new registrations can be challenged for non use 
• remove the presumption of registrability in assessing whether a mark could be misleading or confusing at application • ensure that parallel imports of marked goods do not infringe an Australian registered trade mark when the marked good has been brought to market elsewhere by the owner of the mark or its licensee. Section 97A of the Trade Marks Act 2002 (New Zealand) could serve as a model clause in this regard.
IP Australia should:
• require those seeking trade mark protection to state whether they are using the mark or ‘intending to use’ the mark at application, registration and renewal, and record this on the Australian Trade Mark On line Search System (ATMOSS). It should also seek confirmation from trade mark holders that register with an ‘intent to use’ that their mark is actually in use following the grace period, with this information also recorded on the ATMOSS 
• require the Trade Marks Office to return to its previous practice of routinely challenging trade mark applications that contain contemporary geographical references (under s. 43 of the Trade Marks Act) • in conjunction with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission, link the ATMOSS database with the business registration portal, including to ensure a warning if a business registration may infringe an existing trade mark. 
Recommendation 12.2 The Australian Government should amend the Australian Grape and Wine Authority Act 2013 (Cth) and associated regulations to allow the Geographical Indications (GIs) Committee to amend or omit existing GIs in a manner similar to existing arrangements for the determination of a GI (including preserving the avenues of appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal). Any omissions or amendments to GIs determined in such a manner should only take effect after a ‘grace period’ determined by the GI Committee on a case by case basis. 
Plant Breeder’s Rights 
Recommendation 13.1 The Australian Government should proceed to implement the Advisory Council on Intellectual Property’s 2010 recommendation to amend the Plant Breeder’s Rights Act 1994 (Cth) to enable essentially derived variety (EDV) declarations to be made in respect of any variety. 
Circuit layout rights 
Finding 14.1 Dedicated intellectual property protection for circuit layouts is not ideal and seldom used, but given Australia’s international commitment to protect circuit layouts and no superior alternatives, the best policy option is to maintain the status quo. 
Intellectual property rights and competition law 
Recommendation 15.1 The Australian Government should repeal s. 51(3) of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) (Competition and Consumer Act) at the same time as giving effect to recommendations of the (Harper) Competition Policy Review on the per se prohibitions. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission should issue guidance on the application of part IV of the Competition and Consumer Act to intellectual property. 
IP and public institutions 
RECOMMENDATION 16.1 The Australian, and State and Territory governments should implement an open access policy for publicly funded research. The policy should provide free and open access arrangements for all publications funded by governments, directly or through university funding, within 12 months of publication. The policy should minimise exemptions. The Australian Government should seek to establish the same policy for international agencies to which it is a contributory funder, but which still charge for their publications, such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. 
Finding 16.1 The adoption of an additional ‘use it or lose it’ provision for patents owned by publicly funded organisations is not warranted. 
Intellectual property’s institutional arrangements 
Recommendation 17.1 The Australian Government should promote a coherent and integrated approach to IP policy by: • establishing and maintaining greater IP policy expertise in the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science • ensuring the allocation of functions to IP Australia has regard to conflicts arising from IP Australia’s role as IP rights administrator and involvement in policy development and advice • establishing a standing (interdepartmental) IP Policy Group and formal working arrangements to ensure agencies work together within the policy framework outlined in this report. The Group would comprise those departments with responsibility for industrial and creative IP rights, the Treasury, and others as needed, including IP Australia. 
Finding 17.1 Australia’s approach to negotiating IP provisions in international treaties could be improved through greater use of independent impact assessment and more meaningful stakeholder consultation. 
Recommendation 17.2 The Australian Government should charge the interdepartmental IP Policy Group (recommendation 17.1) and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with the task of developing guidance for IP provisions in international treaties. This guidance should incorporate the following principles: • avoiding the inclusion of IP provisions in bilateral and regional trade agreements and leaving negotiations on IP standards to multilateral fora • protecting flexibility to achieve policy goals, such as by reserving the right to draft exceptions and limitations • explicitly considering the long term consequences for the public interest and the domestic IP system in cases where IP demands of other countries are accepted in exchange for obtaining other benefits • identifying no go areas that are likely to be seldom or never in Australia’s interests, such as retrospective extensions of IP rights • conducting negotiations, as far as their nature makes it possible, in an open and transparent manner and ensuring that rights holders and industry groups do not enjoy preferential treatment over other stakeholders. 
International cooperation in IP 
Recommendation 18.1 The Australian Government should: • pursue international collaborative efforts to streamline IP administrative and licensing processes separately from efforts to align standards of IP protection. In so doing, it should consider a range of cooperative mechanisms, such as mutual recognition • use multilateral forums when seeking to align standards of protection. 
Recommendation 18.2 The Australian Government should play a more active role in international forums on intellectual property policy — areas to pursue include: • calling for a review of the TRIPS Agreement (under Article 71.1) by the WTO • exploring opportunities to further raise the threshold for inventive step for patents • pursuing the steps needed to explicitly allow the manufacture for export of pharmaceuticals in their patent extension period • working towards a system of eventual publication of clinical trial data for pharmaceuticals in exchange for statutory data protection • identifying and progressing reforms that would strike a better balance in respect of copyright scope and term. 
Compliance and enforcement of IP rights 
Recommendation 19.1 The Australian Government should expand the safe harbour scheme to cover not just carriage service providers, but all providers of online services. 
Finding 19.1 Timely and competitively priced access to copyright-protected works is the most efficient and effective way to reduce online copyright infringement. 
Recommendation 19.2 The Australian Government should introduce a specialist IP list in the Federal Circuit Court, encompassing features similar to those of the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Enterprise Court, including limiting trials to two days, caps on costs and damages, and a small claims procedure. The jurisdiction of the Federal Circuit Court should be expanded so it can hear all IP matters. This would complement current reforms by the Federal Court for management of IP cases within the National Court Framework, which are likely to benefit parties involved in high value IP disputes. The Federal Circuit Court should be adequately resourced to ensure that any increase in its workload arising from these reforms does not result in longer resolution times. The Australian Government should assess the costs and benefits of these reforms five years after implementation, also taking into account the progress of the Federal Court’s proposed reforms to IP case management.