Post removed

Last night I wrote a post here taking issue with Caroline Overington’s article criticising what she saw as the leniency of the sentence imposed on Adrian Bayley for the rape and murder of Gillian Meagher.  Some links to this post were automatically sent out.

My post was critical of Ms Overington’s views.  However, I have removed it in the light of comments reportedly made by Tom Meagher about the sentence.  Having read his reported comments, I’m no longer comfortable about debating this issue.

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Ceremony – February 26 2013

Alan is dying tonight.  As I write.  Perhaps it’s happened.  We were told this evening.  Text message.  The modern way.  We knew he was very ill, but now here it is.

He and I are not close.  I can say that I think he’s a good person, devoted father, hard worker.

You know it’s going to happen to everyone but when it happens close to home it’s a shock.  A mystery.  Everything else, everyone else, carries on; children go to ballet lessons, people cook dinner, people eat dinner, people sing, people fight; but Alan is dying tonight; a momentous thing is happening to an ordinary man.

In the hot humid night, we walk, the dog and I, down oblivious streets.  A possum lies dead on the footpath. Near home, we pass the church, silent, looming in the dark.  Once, people would have found solace there at a time of loss; no doubt some do still; but tonight it is an empty testament to the futile, enormous truth – “we simply do not know”.

He has children and a wife.  They are with him tonight.  My thoughts are with him too; now;  (I did not think to make an effort when it might have mattered to him).  But tonight he makes his journey; mine can wait for now.

The clouds are heavy, shroud-like. The massive gum tree on Williams Road spreads like a basilica in the street light; its lemon incense cuts the air. The cicadas thrum – their monotonous dies irae in the dark heralds the great change.   All else is quiet, expectant.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

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Initial thoughts on PPCA v CRA

Initial thoughts on PPCA v CRA (but still thinking it through)

  • It seems counter-intuitive that the platform by which content is delivered should determine whether or not a particular royalty regime applies when the content is delivered simultaneously and in identical form.
  • This is not a case where a third party is re-transmitting the original (as occurs when Foxtel re-transmits free to air television networks), in which case the rationale for some form of separate royalty arrangement is apparent. Incidentally, Screenrights, the collecting society for FTA TV re-transmission rights has had the same view of the Ministerial Determination as the PPCA (for obvious reasons).
  • The result of the PPCA decision is that if, for example, a hypothetical mobile device had an AM/FM radio receiver and wi-fi internet access, a transmission of a sound recording received on the radio receiver would be within the current licence granted by PPCA but the identical simultaneous transmission of the same sound recording to a browser on the same device using the wi-fi network would not be within the licence. This is anomalous and runs counter to the technology-neutral philosophy that underpins recent amendments to the Copyright Act. Similar comments were made about the Full Court decision in the Optus TV Now case, but that decision did not trouble the High Court.
  • Considering the amount of extrinsic material that the Court in PPCA considered, it might be thought curious that the Explanatory Memorandum to the Copyright Amendment (Digital Agenda) Bill 1999 was not considered. In particular, the introduction to that EM states, in part:

“The centrepiece of the Bill is a new technology-neutral right of communication to the public. The new right will replace and extend the existing technology-specific broadcasting right which currently only applies to “wireless” broadcasts. Further, the new right will replace the limited right to transmit to subscribers to a diffusion service. The new right of communication to the public also encompasses the making available of copyright material online.”

  • On the other hand, going down this track simply demonstrates that the Ministerial Determination was at odds with the principle of technological neutrality that the then Government was, at almost the same time as the Minister made the Determination, enshrining in the Copyright Act.
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Female law grad pay inequity

I doubt that it’s controversial to say that Australian law firms are not adequately addressing the fundamental gender shift that has been occurring for a good many years in the legal work force.

As long ago as 2009, it was reported that women comprised almost 60% of the undergrad cohort at Monash Uni Law School.  When I attended a prize-giving ceremony for that law school in 2010, my rough count showed that 70% of the prize-winners were women.  My gut feeling is that these figures would be representative of the proportion, and relative quality, of female law graduates across most if not all Australian law schools in recent years.

Despite this, it is a truism that women still are under-represented at senior levels in private law firms, at the bar and in the judiciary.  So there’s been an understandable focus today on the results of a survey showing that pay for female law graduates in Australia is about 8% lower than for male law grads (the link above is to a press release that summarises the survey results.  There is a further link to the detailed results in the press release).

Readers of the commentary about the survey who have not read the report itself might think that the survey results show that there are significant numbers of women grads working in law firms, doing the same work as their male grad colleagues in the same law firms but being paid 8% less.  That was certainly my first reaction and it is also the reaction of Australian Women Lawyers, who earlier today posted a press release that says in part “Paying a male graduate lawyer a starting salary higher than a female graduate lawyer in the same office is sexist and blatantly discriminatory.”

But do the survey results support this conclusion?  On my reading of them, the salary figures reported in the survey don’t relate only to law grads who have started work in the legal “industry” let alone in private law firms.  The survey reports on the starting salaries of law graduates who were in their first full-time employment in 2012 and doesn’t expressly state that this relates to employment in the legal profession.

Even if my reading of the survey results is correct, the survey results are disturbing; they show that, on average, a woman graduating with a law degree at the end of 2012 was going to be paid significantly less than her male colleagues.  This is not acceptable.

I might be wrong, but my experience has been that salary levels for grads and junior lawyers within each of the mid-size and large law firms where I have worked were standardised across the firm; individual salary differentials don’t usually emerge until after lawyers have been in the system for 2 or 3 years.  It seems to me that there must be other more subtle reasons for the inequity revealed by the survey.  These could include:

  • are women law grads over-represented in non-legal jobs/industries that don’t pay as well (perhaps because they are treated as less desirable “women’s work”)?
  • are women grads who have started to work in the law over-represented in smaller firms, or other organisations (such as government and not for profit bodies) that pay less and, if so, why?
  • related to the previous point, is there any evidence that larger, higher paying firms discriminate against women when hiring grads (for example if numbers of male and female grads in these organisations are roughly equal then that would suggest that there is a bias if the student number proportions and (anecdotal) prize-winner figures referred to above are correct)?
  • are any women law grads working part time and therefore being paid less (it’s not clear from the survey results whether this has been factored in)?

The survey authors (page 10) point to this potential complexity when they state (at page 10 of the survey):

When males and females have studied in the same field, differing employment factors such as occupation, type and location of employer, or the hours worked, can also have an effect on earnings.”

It would be interesting and potentially useful to see some follow up analysis of the figures from the survey and, where necessary, some additional research to shed light on the reasons for what remains an unacceptable situation.

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