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Cite as: (2009) 83(03) LIJ, p. 72

This month’s reviews look at the trial of ATSIC chair Geoff Clark, governance of non-profit organisations, marketing law and a history of Australian immigration.

A Question of Power

Michelle Schwarz, A Question of Power: The Geoff Clark case, 2008, Black Inc., pb $29.95.

A Question of Power: The Geoff Clark case is a sobering reminder of how deeply our legal system can affect the lives of those entangled in it.

Most lawyers will recall the case brought by Carol Stingel against former ATSIC chair Geoff Clark, which went to trial at the beginning of 2007. Stingel successfully sued Clark for damages, arguing that as a result of allegedly being raped by Clark years earlier, she suffered from post-traumatic stress.

The book contains a vivid description of the civil trial, along with a useful background to each of the “players” involved. Transcript of the proceeding is used effectively to draw readers into the drama of the courtroom.

Readers will be saddened to learn just how divisive the episode was for a large part of the Aboriginal community, and few would dispute that Geoff Clark’s reputation as a result of the contemporaneous publicity has been seriously tarnished.

The role of the media, and in particular the “exposé” published in The Age several years before Clark’s civil trial, is heavily critiqued and criticised by Schwarz.

Added insight is given through interviews not only with the parties involved, but their legal representatives. It is fascinating to read the afterthoughts of senior counsel for both Stingel and Clark. Both counsel remain convinced of their respective client’s instructions.

While Schwarz does not seek to take sides, readers would be forgiven for feeling that the book is overly sympathetic to Clark in places. Ultimately, A Question of Power tells a sad tale in which there have been no real winners and lots of questions remain unanswered.

Nonetheless, A Question of Power is a very well-researched and, at times, gripping account of high profile litigation involving sex, power and politics, all in a well-defined context. It will particularly appeal to criminal lawyers, media lawyers and anyone interested in Aboriginal politics.

Christien Corns
Middletons

The Book of the Board

David Fishel, The Book of the Board: Effective governance for non-profit organisations (2nd edn), 2008, The Federation Press, pb $59.95.

This book is a must-have for members of non-profit boards who want to develop a better understanding of what being on a board is all about and how to improve their board’s performance.

This is a practical, “real life” guide which covers: the role of the board, CEO and chair; strategic planning; meetings; risk management; legal responsibilities; financial management; fundraising; performance measurement; alliances and mergers; and recruitment and succession. An example of the practical nature of the book is its step-by-step guide to recruiting a new CEO.

The Book of the Board would be a great introduction for new board CEOs and chairs who are unsure or intimidated by their responsibilities as board members. Experienced board members will also find it a worthwhile resource.

The second edition has many more practical resources than the first. With 10 checklists and 15 other resources, this edition is more likely to be turned to frequently, rather than read once for general background. The checklists are referenced at the end of each chapter and there is a useful bibliography and list of websites.

Particularly in the chapters on the role of the board and strategic planning, Fishel presents the views of a variety of experts and a variety of different approaches. This makes it a balanced and rich resource rather than the voice of one expert pushing a particular line.

The law relating to governance of non-profits is not covered in detail. For example, the discussion of directors’ duties is very brief and the chapter on fundraising does not cover the legal landscape. However, it does not set out to be a legal text. The Book of the Board well and truly achieves its purpose, which is “to help the board members of non-profit organisations in Australia make a productive contribution to the life of their organisation”.

If you are serious about building your board’s capability, read and use this book. You will also find useful resources, for example a “Board Builder” newsletter and “How-to” Board books at http://www.ourcommunity.com.au.

Libby Klein
Moores Legal

Marketing Law

Peter Gillies and Niloufer Selvadurai, Marketing Law, 2008, The Federation Press, pb $70.

Marketing law is such a broad topic it is hard to imagine any commercial lawyer who would not need to touch on aspects of it in their day-to-day practice. While this text is primarily targeted at students, it would be a useful companion for lawyers as well.

Topics covered include: statutory frameworks applying to copyright, designs, trade marks and patents; the common law tort of passing off applying to unfair selling practices; confidential information; potential defamatory liability; legislation in relation to product quality and liability; trade practices laws and the responsibilities of marketers; and restrictive trade practices, with emphasis on the prohibitions on arrangements restricting competition, exclusive dealing and misuse of market power.

An impressive addition is the chapter on insurance law, an area that is often overlooked in marketing law texts. This section considers statutory provisions and common law relating to insurance, the effect of misrepresentations, the indemnity principle, subrogation, insurance contracts and standard clauses of insurance.

Chapter 5 on defamation is also useful and covers what constitutes defamation, the distinction between libel and slander, resolving disputes without resorting to litigation and defences.

Another advantage of the book is its currency. For example, the case of Bond v Barry [2008] FCAFC 115, which concerned misleading and deceptive conduct under the Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth), was delivered days before the book went to press.

Marketing Law also gives an indication of the general trends in this growing body of laws, including the trend towards increased surveillance and regulation of marketing practices, particularly issues surrounding internet advertising, privacy and fair trading.

Given its subject matter and target readership, the book could perhaps have benefitted from some illustrations and flow charts. In my view, it would also have benefitted from more information on trade promotions and lotteries and an overview of specific product labelling requirements, for example in relation to country of origin, care labelling, toy labelling, cosmetics labelling and food labelling.

Perhaps these features will be added to the second edition, if one is published.

Sharon Givoni
Sharon Givoni Consulting

Destination Australia

Eric Richards, Destination Australia: Migration to Australia since 1901, 2008, UNSW Press, pb $39.95.

Immigration museums, multicultural festivals and fascination with family genealogy – all testify to our insatiable interest in the variety of our forebears.

Using a chronological, social history approach from 1901, Professor Eric Richards outlines the transitions brought by each phase of migration. Each of the nine such chapters is illustrated with evocative photographs accompanied by settlers’ stories which personalise the statistics, government and bureaucratic policies and economic and social conditions of the relevant period.

As Richards observes: “Immigration has been the great conductor of change, tension and growth in the modern Australian experience; it has been critical to its political maturity, to its demography, its economic development, its social cohesion and its relations with the rest of the world, and also to its very self-understanding and identity”.

The author fearlessly covers the Tampa issue in 2004, discussing attitudes to refugees in the context of the political dynamics of that period. This and other chapters might have been assisted by an overview of the general provisions of the relevant legislation, the visa scheme or to the specialist tribunals administering migration and refugees.

Chapter 13 provides a necessary retrospective and analysis of the topic by making comparisons with other countries of recent settlement. Themes explored include: immigration, defence and development; Australia’s relationship with the immigrant world; and the culture of control. The statistics section provides useful tables of immigration.

As an historian, it is outside Richards’ brief to comment on the role law plays in Australia’s ever-changing society or comment on why this continent has maintained a stable democracy or a coherent social fabric.

A well-researched compendium suitable as background reading for migration agents, those practising in the Migration Review Tribunal and all Australians who say “my family story is worth telling”.

Alan Ray
Adjunct Lecturer, The College of Law Victoria

Reviewers Wanted

The LIJ is always looking to increase its database of book reviewers.* Keen readers with specialist knowledge who are interested in writing reviews (350 words maximum) should email Alison Shield at ashield@liv.asn.au, outlining their areas of expertise and interest.

*Reviewers get to keep the book they review.

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