QUT Faculty of Law Journal Law, Technology and Humans publishes first article

Law, Technology and Humans is an international, open access, peer-reviewed journal publishing original, innovative research concerned with the human and humanity of law and technology.

Image by Jon Tyson

Supported by the QUT Faculty of Law, the Journal was launched earlier this year alongside the QUT Law Lab and is one of four QUT-supported scholarly journals.

Ahead of the inaugural issue scheduled for later this year, Law, Technology and Humans has published its first article. Towards the Uberisation of Legal Practice considers ‘NewLaw’, a new business model in the delivery of legal services.   Emerita Professor of Law at the ANU College of Law Margaret Thornton discusses the key features of NewLaw entities and the ramifications for individual lawyers, with some interesting perspectives in regards to gender and age.  Online first at https://lthj.qut.edu.au/article/view/1277

Follow Journal announcements on Twitter @LawTechHum

To learn more about the journal you can visit the website or contact the journal’s General Editor Professor Kieran Tranter at k.tranter@qut.edu.au. 



Annual research scholarship round – apply now

Applications for our annual research scholarship round are now open for students starting in 2020.

Apply for a research degree and register your interest in a scholarship any time between now and 30 September 2019.

You can help find real-world solutions to a diverse range of topics in law. Possible research topics in the School of Law include:

  • International human rights law
  • Children’s health law
  • Jurisprudence and theories of law
  • New Technology and the law
  • Japanese and Asian comparative law

Find out more about research projects on our website.

An information session will be held on Tuesday 3 September, 10am-11am, at Gardens Point, Z Block, Level 10, the Gibson Room (1064). This will also be a recorded Zoom session. To register your interest in joining the session via Zoom, email research.scholarships@qut.edu.au by no later then Friday 30 August 2019.


QUT and Griffith real world collaboration project on Diabetes

Dr Elizabeth Dickson (QUT) and Dr Malcolm Smith (Griffith University) are collaborating on research projects for the Australian Diabetes Education Association and Diabetes Australia. Both organisations are committed to improving the health and well-being of around 1.7 million Australians living with diabetes.

In September 2018, The Australian Government announced that it would allocate 6 million dollars to fund the development of a training program for school staff supporting around 6000 Australian school students with type 1 diabetes. The program will address current inconsistencies in the level of support offered to students in Australian schools.  It is of particular concern that not all Australian students with type 1 diabetes have access to school based assistance with and supervision of insulin delivery and blood glucose monitoring. Elizabeth and Malcolm conducted a review of relevant law and policy applicable to the safe delivery of insulin at school.

In 2019 Elizabeth and Malcolm have been conducting a similar review of law and policy as applicable to the safe administration by carers of insulin to people with diabetes and another disability that prevents self-administration.

This type of research is a great example of academics making an impact in the real world.

Read Dr Michael Guihot’s article about rules on the ethical development of artificial intelligence in The Conversation.

Dr Michael Guihot’s article  “Will we ever agree to just one set of rules on the ethical development of artificial intelligence?” has been published in The Conversation.

In his article, Michael discusses the ‘many, many guidelines’ from governments and other bodies around the world that seek to instil an ethical approach to developing artificial intelligence and whether these guidelines are enforceable. He also discusses the need to build some global consensus on artificial intelligence .

Michael’s current research focuses on ‘Artificial Intelligence, Robots and the Law” and he is currently co-authoring a book by that name. Michael’s research investigates the intersection of new technology and law, including the regulation of artificial intelligence, and the impact of new technologies on power and governance including how changes in global power structures affect private and public governance, and the impact of new technology on legal institutions.

Learn more about Michael and his publications in his staff profile.

Dr Alex Deagon’s religious freedom research published in the Sydney Morning Herald

Prior to the Federal Election unexpectedly won by the Coalition Government, Labour indicated its intention to remove religious exemptions to the Sex Discrimination Act (Cth) which allow religious schools to ‘discriminate’ against staff and students in the process of upholding a religious ethos. Dr Deagon was asked to contribute on this matter to a special issue of St Mark’s Review: A Journal of Christian Thought and Opinion on the topic of religious freedom in Australia after the Ruddock Review. Other contributors to the special issue included:

Dr Deagon’s article, ‘Maintaining religious freedom for religious schools: options for legal protection after the Ruddock Review’, argued that there are persuasive theoretical, international and constitutional reasons to provide robust legal protections to religious schools seeking to select and regulate their school community. On the eve of the election, Dr Deagon also authored a shorter opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald summarising this argument: ‘Folau verdict aside, Labor threatens religious freedom in schools’. Given the significant swing against Labor in seats with stronger religious affiliations, religious freedom may have been a significant factor in the election result.

Earlier, in April 2019, Dr Deagon also participated in the ‘Religious Freedom after Ruddock’ conference at the University of Queensland. He delivered a paper entitled ‘Religious Schools, Religious Vendors and Refusing Services after Ruddock: Diversity or Discrimination?’ The paper argued that the religious protections for religious schools to refuse marriage services if it conflicted with the doctrines of the school should also be extended to religious vendors who refuse marriage services.

The paper was accepted for publication in a special forthcoming issue of the Australian Law Journal, along with other contributors such as:

  • Professor Nicholas Aroney, Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Queensland and member of the Ruddock Religious Freedom Review Panel, and
  • Professor George Williams AO, Dean, Anthony Mason Professor and Scientia Professor of the University of New South Wales Law School.

You can find out more about Alex’s research interests and publications here.

Single-use Plastic Waste Policy in 2018: What will 2019 hold in store?

Dr Rowena Maguire and Dr Hope Johnson from the Faculty of Law are currently working with Dr Manuela Taboada (Design), Associate Professor Leonie Barner (Polymer Chemist) and Dr Glenda Caldwell (Design) on a transdisciplinary project funded by the Institute of Future Environments at QUT which aims to design out plastic waste. They will be launching an app shortly, which individuals can use to track their plastic waste.

In this blog, Dr Rowena McGuire and Dr Hope Johnson review single-use plastic waste policy in 2018 and discuss what 2019 will hold in store.

As Stephen Buranyi recently observed ‘Plastic is everywhere, and suddenly we have decided that is a very bad thing’. While the science on the impacts of plastics on marine life has been clear since the 1980s society has, until recently been happy to look the other way on our throwaway culture. This culture of convenience generates significant plastic waste, most of it arising from food packaging and most of it going directly to landfill. Once in landfill, our products of plastic convenience will continue to live on past our own life with plastic bags taking between 10- 1000 years to breakdown and plastic bottles taking 450 years or more to break down. The regulatory framework for addressing waste is referred to as the Circular Economy. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation identifies three principles of the circular economy: 1) design out waste and pollution; 2) keep products and materials in use, 3) regenerate natural systems. Historically, political support and leadership for laws encouraging reduced consumption and production have been generally low, due to our economic structure which depends upon the over-production and consumption of products. More recently, however, governments have started to embrace circular economy type initiatives due to the escalating costs of managing the waste from our throwaway culture.

Single-use plastic regulation around the globe in 2018

2018 marked a turning point for plastic pollution and for sustainable consumption more generally. The European Commission, the UK and local towns and provinces around the world banned, or announced an intention to ban, certain single-use plastic products. Maharashtra in Mumbai, India’s largest city with a population of 18.4 million, introduced criminal sanctions for manufacturing or selling a broad range of single-use plastic bags, plates and takeaway food containers.

2018 saw Chile ban retail businesses from using plastic bags. The theme for World Environment Day 2018 was “Beat Plastic Pollution”, which was paired with the release of the first ever UN report on the state of plastics and the governance required to curb plastic use. While China, which had imported an astounding 45% of plastic waste imports since 1992, restricted its imports of plastic waste products sending shock waves through public and private sectors in over 100 countries.

Supermarkets for the first time introduced “plastic free” aisles. Under the threat of government regulation Australian supermarkets voluntarily phased out light-weight plastic bags leading to an 80% decline in plastic bag use nationwide. The past 12 months have seen a distinct rise in the number of transnational companies restricting plastic straws from the likes of Starbucks, Disney and Ikea.

Closer to home, New Zealand has been phasing out single-use plastic shopping bags. Queensland introduced a ban on single-use plastic bags and a container-deposit scheme leaving NSW as the only state in Australia without regulations or plans to reduce plastics.

State and federal ministers in Australia agreed to a new 2018 National Waste Policy and the Senate Environment and Communications Reference Committee, released its report into Australia’s regulation and management of waste and recycling which emphasised that waste policies need to be based on waste reduction (i.e. preventing the creation of waste in the first place).

Early developments in 2019 suggest that governments are going to ramp up action on plastic waste with Vanuatu pledging phase out of disposable nappies, plastic cutlery and packing such as netting and clamshell cases by December 2019. Vanuatu and Costa Rica are racing to ban all single use plastic by 2021.

Government support for the circular economy is also growing at home with the Queensland Government announcing the establishment of Australia’s first Circular Economy Lab which aims to support innovative projects to change the way we think about material, resources and waste in Queensland. And the Hobart City Council in Tasmania has just voted in favour of introducing a by-law banning all single use plastics by 2020 (the ban covers cutlery, sauce sachets, straws, takeaway cups and lids).

Dr Rowena Maguire

What is propelling this regulatory action?

Individuals interact with plastic everyday. Its tangibility and its visibility, even to urban populations, separates it from other global environmental issues like climate change or soil desertification. Moreover, single-use plastics, unlike other resource intensive and environmentally persistent products, have alternatives that are, generally, widely accessible. Reusable bags and cups, for instance, are a well-recognised means through which individuals construct their self-identity as a compassionate person and communicate their membership into particular social groups such as those that hold environmental values. The War on Waste captured national attention and put our shameful waste practices under the spotlight. This show galvanised action by community groups and schools to tackle waste. Social media is also playing a role in making waste a visible problem by distributing disturbing images of plastic pollution harms across various social media platforms.

In addition to the tangibility and visibility of the plastics problem there are two other factors propelling regulatory reform on plastics: shifts in the international trade of waste; and growing scientific warnings over the harm of single-use plastic on our environment.
The China Plastic Ban of 2018 stopped the importation of mixed plastic products from entering China. Mixed plastic makes up the bulk of plastic packaging in Australia and has left local governments in Australia stockpiled with plastic waste, which is destined for landfill until alternative recovery pathways or new markets for mixed plastic emerge. Local governments remain under pressure from their constituents to pay for recycling onshore, but do not have capacity to pay for recycling of all mixed plastic waste.
Scientists lament that we have not only plastified human life, but we have also plastified the life and death of marine animals. The US Academy of Sciences estimates that 6.4 million tons or about 5% of all plastic produced ends up in the ocean. Plastic harms all marine life, including whales, turtles and seabirds, when ingested, either by physically blocking the gut of these animals or as a result of the containments within the plastic poisoning the animals.

Dr Hope Johnson

Plastic bag bans and other kinds of regulatory interventions reinforce and strengthen plastic reducing norms. The relationship between these factors is non-linear, and their relationship to legislative restrictions or bans varies depending on context. Regardless, the anti-single-use plastic movement shows that where leadership and public pressure are strong, regulation to reduce consumption and production of unstainable products is possible.

If you want to know more about Dr Rowena Maguire and Dr Hope Johnson’s research search their staff profiles.

Fiona McDonald secures International Senior Research Fellowship at Durham University

We are delighted to announce that Associate Professor Fiona McDonald has secured a place in Durham University’s Senior Research Fellowship programme, which she will commence in April 2019. The programme is designed to attract lively, inventive and influential figures in academia where Fiona will foment new and sustainable research collaborations across the panoply of Durham University’s collective activities. Fiona will sit in the Institute of hazard, Risk and Resilience, with internationally-recognised leaders in developing resilient, research-informed approaches to hazard and risk. Her research will focus on an ethical and legal analysis of facemask use in particulate air pollution events.

Associate Professor Fiona McDonald

Fiona is a co-director of the Australian Centre for Health Law Research, an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Department of Bioethics, Dalhousie University, Canada and  member of the Dalhousie University’s Technoscience and Regulation Research Unit . Prior to her appointment

in the Faculty of Law, Fiona was a research associate at the Health Law Institute at Dalhousie University, Canada and a legal advisor to New Zealand’s Health and Disability Commissioner.  Fiona’s research encompasses issues related to health governance and has four broad themes:

  • the governance of health and systems (with a focus on rural bioethics and disaster response)
  • the governance of health technologies
  • the governance of health professionals
  • the governance of health organisations.

Fiona’s work has been published in a range of international journals, she has presented at a number of international conferences, and has received grants, contracts and scholarships to conduct research in this area. You can read more about Fiona in her staff profile.

Digital waste hidden behind the elegance of new technologies

Dr Michael Guihot was invited to present his paper ‘Elegance and Waste: Heat Loss as Waste in the Digital Age’ at a symposium at UNSW in December held as part of UNSW Law’s project Digital Humanitarianism: Law and Policy Challenges.

The theme for the symposium was about rethinking the relations between data (information, knowledge, value) and waste (junk, trash, spam). Michael’s paper looked at heat loss in data centres as digital waste that is hidden behind the elegance of new technologies and further obscured by the big tech companies that can control the discourse.

Other presenters came from NYU Shanghai, Berkeley, and the University of Alberta. The project is run by Fleur Johns and the symposium was supported by the Allens Hub.

Michael’s current research focuses on Artificial Intelligence, Robots and the Law and he is currently co-authoring a book by that name. Michael’s research investigates the intersection of new technology and law, including the regulation of artificial intelligence, and the impact of new technologies on power and governance including how changes in global power structures affect private and public governance, and the impact of new technology on legal institutions.

Learn more about Michael and his publications in his staff profile.

Project aims to stamp out fake steak

Dr Felicity Deane was recently awarded  a new 2 year, one million dollar project, funded by the Food Agility CRC. The project is focused on Smart Contracts, Exports and Food Safety – in particular in China.

There are three researchers from QUT who are each responsible for their respective discipline specific research questions. Marcus Foth from Creative Industries, Uwe Dulleck from Business and Felicity from Law. The research team and their industry partner – BeefLedger – recently travelled to Shanghai to meet with various stakeholders.

Global food fraud is estimated to be a $40b per year problem, and as Australia continues to boost our reputation for safe and reliable food among prominent export markets, these problems will only continue to grow.

QUT Media recently reported on this success:

“Three tonnes of Australian beef packed in Casino NSW and bound for China is being tracked and verified using blockchain and Internet of Things technologies.

The shipment is the first in a Food Agility project, led by Queensland company BeefLedger Limited and QUT. It aims to stamp out the problem of ‘fake steak’ in international export markets, giving suppliers and consumers confidence that their meat is 100% Aussie.

The team is building a digital system using ‘smart contracts’ to replace forgeable letters of credit, developing and integrating a suite of technologies into new packaging to prevent the substitution of fake products, and building apps for consumers and suppliers so they can verify where their meat comes from.”

Read more about some of the other projects our research academics in the Faculty of Law are involved in.

Australian Centre for Health Law Research

The Australian Centre for Health Law Research’s new website is now live. The website showcases ACHLR’s research strength across four research streams led by co-directors Associate Professor Fiona McDonald  and Associate Professor Tina Cockburn:

End of Life, which explores the legal, ethical and policy issues of death and dying. This stream is led by Professor Ben White and Professor Lindy Willmott , former co-directors of ACHLR. The End of Life stream maintains the comprehensive End of Life Law in Australia website.

Health, Society and Regulation, led by Dr Shih-Ning Then. This stream investigates the social, regulatory, and ethical challenges associated with the regulation of health care.

Ageing and Aged Care, which examines the pressing legal, health, social and policy issues that arise from population ageing, led by Dr Kelly Purser  and Associate Professor Tina Cockburn.

Technology, Innovation and Health, led by Professor Belinda Bennett . This stream investigates the social, legal and regulatory implications of technology and innovation in health care. ACHLR researchers are active in the Queensland Genomics Health Alliance’s Ethics, Legal and Social Implications Workstream , collaborating with colleagues at UQ, Queensland Health, and QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

ACHLR members continue to engage in current topics of law reform, including a response to the COAG Health Council Regulation of Australia’s Health Professions Consultation Paper  regarding mandatory reporting to National Boards of professional negligence settlements and judgements and charges or convictions of scheduled medicines offences. Members also made a response to the Australian Human Rights Commission Human Rights and Technology Issues Paper.

See what our ACHLR researchers have published in e-prints.