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    "What Simon Birmingham has been doing is absolutely fantastic. He has managed to un-mesh the terrible omelette that was created by the Gillard government, the Rudd government in terms of funding; he's undoing all that." 

    Senator Chris Back (Lib. WA) arguing that Catholic schools are getting a raw deal under Gonski 11. AM, ABC Radio, June 19, 2017  ... Read more ... 


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    Monday
    May082017

    News wrap

    May 2 to May 8 ... WTO ruling upholds Australia's laws for cancer stick plain packaging ... Triggs to receive free speech award from Liberty Victoria ... HSF settles with ex-partners who jumped ship ... Aboriginal CEO Brendan Thomas to head Legal Aid NSW ... Nauru's judiciary insufficiently independent ... Week@TheKnees with Sohini Mehta 

    Newsmakers

    THE World Trade Organisation has upheld Australia's cigarette plain packaging laws as a legitimate public health measure, according to a confidential draft ruling leaked to Bloomberg.

    Tobacco production countries Cuba, Honduras, Dominican Republic and Indonesia complained to the WTO in 2012 that the plain packaging laws impose an illegal barrier to trade. 

    Cuba opposed to plain tobacco packagingFormer health minister Nicola Roxon, who championed the 2010 laws, said the decision should inspire other countries to usher in similar legislation.

    Britain, France and Hungary have gone ahead with their own legislation, with Ireland, Canada, and South Africa expected to follow suit. 

    Tobacco giants have long complained about infringed trademarks, leading to governments holding off legislation in the absence of legal certainty. 

    Australia accused its challengers of deliberately dragging their feet during the WTO decision-making process with the intent of producing a "regulatory chilling" effect on other countries wishing to follow its example.

    The WTO ruling is predicted to greenlight other laws which dampen the appeal of alcohol and junk food. 

    The final WTO ruling is expected to be aired in July. 

    *   *   *

    Voltaire: award for TriggsLiberty Victoria will bestow outgoing human rights commissioner Gillian Triggs with its 2017 Voltaire Award for "making an outstanding contribution to free speech [and] her courage and persistence under extraordinary pressure" one week before the expiry of her five-year contract in July. 

    Attorney General George Brandis and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton have called for the resignation of Triggs, who has consistently condemned Australia's treatment of refugees. 

    Former PM and full-time annoyance Tony Abbott told Sydney radio station 2GB: 

    "She's been the enemy of free speech, the absolute arch enemy of free speech in this country and I can only assume that someone with a warped sense of humour has come up with this award."

    *   *   *

    The Supreme Court of NSW approved on Monday (May 1) an agreement between eight defecting partners at White & Case and their former law shop Herbert Smith Freehills, making the court's interlocutory injunction final.

    That injunction banned the eight departing partners from poaching HSF's clients and employees for six months until September but did not go so far as to prevent the partners from working at White & Case. The matter was due to go to final hearing on June 5.​

    The parties are keeping mum about the financial terms of the settlement, which is said to be confidential. 

    *   *   *

    Legal Aid NSW has appointed its first Aboriginal CEO Brendan Thomas, a 20-year veteran of the Department of Justice. Thomas replaces Bill Grant OAM who headed the commission for eleven years and died in January this year, a month after retiring. 

    "As an Aboriginal Australian and as a long-time advocate for increased access to justice for all, I look forward to ensuring Legal Aid NSW continues to assist Aboriginal communities, victims of domestic violence, the homeless, and anyone else in need of legal advice," Thomas said.

    Late last month, the commission addressed a Senate inquiry into issues associated with Centrelink's robo-debt system alongside the Sydney-based Welfare Rights Centre and the Illawarra Legal Centre, including the resurrection of debts that date back as far as 2010 and the unfairness of the 10 per cent recovery fee. 

    *   *   *

    Hearn: taking the Nauru protest case to the High CourtActing chief justice Mohammed Shafi Khan increased nearly seven-fold the prison sentences of three Nauruans charged over a 2015 protest over the government's suspension of three opposition MPs.

    The contract of the trial magistrate Emma Garo wasn't renewed by the Nauruan government following the imposition of the original sentences.

    Australian lawyers for the appellants intend to appeal to the High Court of Australia, the highest court of appeal in Nauru for non-constitutional matters.

    Instructing solicitor Christian Hearn told Guardian Australia:

    "All involved in the case remain focused on the stay application currently before the district court. This application seeks to demonstrate that at present, the defendants cannot get a fair trial because the judiciary is not sufficiently independent of the executive."

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