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Cite as: (2007) 81(3) LIJ, p. 74

This month’s reviews cover medico-legal issues, tourism v indigenous peoples’ rights, administrative law and the power and pleasure of the English language.

Disputes & Dilemmas in Health Law

Ian Freckelton and Kerry Petersen, Disputes & Dilemmas in Health Law, 2006, The Federation Press, pb $125.

Medico-legal issues feature prominently in the media, with issues such as assisted reproduction, privacy, health profession regulation and euthanasia frequently being examined.

Recent moves in Victoria to amalgamate the regulation of medical and allied health professions into a medical list at VCAT has brought about a closer scrutiny of the issues associated with this field. High profile cases about medical and allied health professionals have led to discussions around the importance of regulation of health professionals.

Advances in technology and scientific research also mean issues of stem cell research and fertility treatments are often at the forefront of our minds. An ageing population sees an increasing focus on issues surrounding the end of life.

This book replaces Controversies in Health Law (1999) by the same editors. It covers a wider range of subjects and updates others, some of which have undergone significant development in the past few years.

For practitioners who work in this field, this book is a comprehensive starting point for all of these issues and many more. Consisting of 30 chapters, the book provides a good mixture of legal and practical considerations.

There are contributions from many and varied recognised experts in the different areas covered. The editors themselves have authored or co-authored seven chapters, drawing on their valuable and vast experience in this field.

Importantly, the book makes reference to recent case law and legislative changes in the areas covered. Of particular interest are reforms to medical negligence laws; the laws around advance directives; privacy and access to medical records; confidentiality; the role of the Coroner; gene patenting and genetic research; assisted reproduction and public health law issues including obesity, SARS and bioterrorism.

The book is easy to use and understand, and is a great reference tool. It provides enough depth of information to guide users in the right direction for the appropriate legislation or case law in respect of particular areas.


Is the Sacred for Sale? Tourism and indigenous peoples

Alison M Johnston, Is the Sacred for Sale? Tourism and indigenous peoples, 2006, Earthscan, pb $65.

Is the Sacred for Sale? comprises 10 chapters, covering land rights, self-determination, intellectual property, sacred sites, protected areas, partnerships, accommodating indigenous rights, sustainable tourism, and the UN. It addresses indigenous rights and exploitation on a global scale.

Australia, the US, the UK, Canada and Aotearoa/New Zealand do not fare well. As Johnston says, colonisation continues, the dollar return being massive. The rapaciousness and greed of Cecil Rhodes and the British Empire continue under shareholders and democracy, in similar guise: “helping the natives”, advantages to the disadvantaged, “preserving” indigenous relics and biodiversity.

Eco-tourism provides a convenient cover under which a nod is given to indigenous owners, tourists experience life in the wild and meanwhile the sacred is sold – at a profit.

Johnston outlines international laws and instruments promoting Indigenous peoples’ rights through sovereignty and the right to self-determination, as well as those devised ostensibly to preserve and bolster indigenous peoples’ partici-pation in develop-ment of their lands and heritage.

To establish equal partnerships wholly involving indigenous peoples, corporate (and government) failures need to be reversed. If cultural heritage and ownership by indigenous peoples is recognised, negotiations must occur consistent with this. Otherwise, governments and corporations pay lipservice only. They would do better to acknowledge talk of partnerships, negotiation, contracts and consent as misplaced.

Examples in this book illustrate the inconsistencies in purporting to honour indigenous peoples’ needs while providing experiences for inquiring tourists.

Additional to its philosophical argument, the book proposes solutions and its format promotes this.

Brief, pithy items appear throughout, highlighted in shaded boxes for easy access.

Eleven short, informative appendices provide accessible guidance for readers, particularly for lawyers wishing to provide sensible, and sensitive, advice to clients.

Measures to be taken if a project is to be culturally sustainable are listed – and what makes it unsustainable.

Sample cross-cultural protocols for tourists, consultants and professionals, non-government organisations, industry, corporations and governments are included.

The comprehensive endnotes are worth reading in themselves.

Is the Sacred for Sale? is a book lawyers with a conscience should read.


Administrative Power and the Law

Fiona McKenzie, Administrative Power and the Law: A succinct guide to administrative law, 2006, Australian Law in Practice, pb $55.

The rapid growth of the executive branch of government in western countries in the past half century means more people are affected more often by the decisions of the government. The tentacles of the executive government now reach into every aspect of daily life. Virtually every vocation is strictly licensed and regulated. The government holds massive amounts of information on its citizens.

Administrative law is concerned with the sources and limits on the powers of the executive government. It is based on the principle that the executive itself should be accountable and subject to the rule of law. The area has become more complicated in recent years by the increasing tendency of government to privatise its executive functions, such as the management of the prison system. There is also an increased tendency to conduct the functions of government through statutory bodies. As the powers of the executive expand, it has become increasingly difficult to keep the executive accountable for its decisions. Shortly before his death in 1999, former Master of the Rolls Lord Denning stated that the development of administrative law and “the control of the executive and all inferior bodies” was the greatest achievement of the law in his lifetime.

This book provides a brief introduction to the main areas of administrative law: statutory powers and their interpretation; freedom of information; judicial review (under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 and at common law) and the grounds of review; and merits review. As described in the introduction, it provides a “helpful starting point” to the topic. Totalling 150 pages, the book provides little more than a general overview.

Fiona McKenzie’s book is to be com-mended for its brevity, the simple language used and the helpful diagrams. In each area the main judicial decisions are summarised clearly and succinctly. These features make it readily accessible to those without legal training and who may be affected by administrative decisions. This empowers members of the public to call the executive government to account, and to seek redress when the government acts outside the law.


Word Watching

Julian Burnside, Word Watching: Field notes from an amateur philologist, 2006, Scribe, pb $24.95.

Not being a philologist, amateur or otherwise, there is danger in reviewing the work of one who is. So to avoid falling into philological error I will be brief.

Julian Burnside will be well-known to many for his accomplishments at the Victorian Bar. Less well-known will be his alter ego as a modern day philologist. Picture Burnside in wig and gown with a large butterfly net as he captures and etymologically examines an eclectic and exotic array of words.

Burnside has succumbed to that occupational hazard that lies in wait for many of us lawyers who spend our days marshalling words in service of submissions, pleas, plaints, epistles, polemics and ultimatums. This philological interest is the end point of extreme specialisation in wordplay and it may not appeal to all. As with fine wine so also with fine words – the more sophisticated the taste the finer the distinctions, the more exquisite the nuances the smaller the group of aficionados.

In this expanded edition of a work first published in 2004, Burnside indulges his whimsy for words. It is an anthology of short essays across a broad range of word-related topics with chapter titles including “Haitch”, “Holy Wars”, “Bushrangers”, Harmless Drudges”, “Legal Words”, “Laconic” and “Obscene Words”. The approach is variable in tone. In parts it is gentle and almost twee. In other parts it is strident and accusatory, as when considering doublespeak. In other parts it is absorbing and enthralling. Each part is deeply researched and richly revealing.

Thus, for example, the short essay on “Holy Wars” begins with a swipe at George W Bush before embarking on an examination of the word “crusade” and its Arabic equivalent “jihad” and associated Arabic words before concluding with the derivation of the word “croissant” and a comment on the history of coffee in Vienna. Somehow it all comes together just so.

Like an expensive box of chocolates with exotic fillings, this is a collection of finely crafted confections on words that will be enjoyed by those who love language and its endlessly evolving interplay with meaning.



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