For those who missed the Panel Session, hosted at USQ Springfield on 3 September 2019, the recording is below. Thank you to our panellists and Angus Murray for facilitating the insightful discussion. I hope you enjoy.
Register at https://www.usq.edu.au/emerging-legal-technology
I’ve been working on an article that has required some analysis of the animal protection legislation in all Australian States and Territories. Specifically, I have been looking at the basic cruelty offences, their maximum and minimum penalties, and the nature of any defences or exemptions.
It has been a time-consuming process so I thought I would share the spreadsheet I developed in order to save others some time.
Please note, this is a working document and I accept no responsibility for any errors or omissions. If, however, you notice an error or something has become out-of-date, please let me know and I will update it. If you find it useful, please share.
I recently finished reading Richard Susskind’s revised edition of Tomorrow’s Lawyers. In the spirit of doing things differently, I thought I would share my argument map (developed using Rationale) which summarises the book’s main thesis.
As is evident from the argument map above, Susskind’s argument is straightforward and easily accessible. Having read some of Susskind’s other works,
I would recommend the book for lawyers and law students who are turning their mind to the future of the legal profession for the first time. Those familiar with Susskind’s ‘wake up calls’ may find Tomorrow’s Lawyers a little repetitive.
I wanted to share an example of how the IRAC methodology can be used in law subjects to answer a problem-based question. I have provided this example to a couple of classes I have taught at the University of Southern Queensland and students always seem to find it useful, so I thought I’d share it with the wider world.
The IRAC methodology is an acronym for Issue, Rule, Application and Conclusion. Other variants of the format include ILAC (Issue, Law, Application and Conclusion) and ISAACS, which the Queensland University of Technology use with their law students. ISAACS stands for: identify the issue, state the law, provide an authority for the law, apply the law to the facts, conclude the issue, repeat for others issues and then synthesise an overall conclusion
In my experience, the part that students frequently struggle with is the application section. Unfortunately, this is the most important section. A good application section is often the difference between a student receiving a high mark or an average mark in their assessment. This is because the application is where student’s demonstrate their understanding of the law by articulating why a particular law/rule/principle (identified in the rule/law section) could or ought to apply in the present fact scenario. If a case, for example, is being relied upon, the student needs to state explicitly how the previously decided case would apply in the present scenario (if the matter was to come before the courts). This argument is strengthened by addressing the factual similarities (or differences) between the cases and using deductive reasoning to support their conclusion that the previously decided case is likely (or unlikely) to apply in the present case. [Note the qualifiers ‘likely’ and ‘unlikely’ – you cannot say that a court is 100% going to accept your argument. Something may be ‘very likely’ but this is not the same as ‘will’].
In the attached example below, I demonstrate how the rule and application section can be blended to aid readability and reduce word count. This idea of colour coding the various sentences was one I picked up while teaching at QUT.
One word of caution: some topic examiners/ co-ordinators/ assessors may want you to lay out your IRAC answers differently. Always follow their instructions. I have heard from a student that in a previous subject they were told to structure their IRAC answers as follows [bold indicates subheadings]:
- Issue 1
- Issue 2
- Issue 3 etc
- Law relating to issue 1
- Law relating to issue 2
- Law relating to issue 3
- Applying the law to the facts for issue 1
- Applying the law to the facts for issue 2
- Applying the law to the facts for issue 3
- Conclusion re issue 1
- Conclusion re issue 2
- Conclusion re issue 3
If you have been asked to structure your answer as above, then please do so. However, the generally accepted structure for a problem-based question using the IRAC methodology goes like this:
- Identification of issue 1
- Law relating to issue 1
- Application of law to the facts for issue 1
- Conclusion of issue 1.
- Identification of issue 2
- Law relating to issue 2
- Application of law to the facts for issue 2
- Conclusion of issue 2.
- Identification of issue 3
- Law relating to issue 3
- Application of law to the facts for issue 3
- Conclusion of issue 3.
In my opinion, the second structure is easier to follow from the reader’s perspective as it keeps all the relevant information together. This means less repetition and saving precious words. An argument that flows better is going to be more persuasive.
I hope you find this useful. If so, please share it. Approaching problem-based legal questions in a systematic way, as set out in the IRAC method, is an important skill for all law students and students studying law subjects.
On Monday, I attended an inspiring training day at the University of Southern Queensland, run by the Office for the Advancement of Learning and Teaching. I came away with a head full of ideas on how to improve my courses and to teach generally. One small idea I look forward to trialling is setting up a formative quiz at the beginning of the semester to gauge students’ starting level of knowledge. This also has the ancillary benefit of encouraging students to engage with Moodle early in the topic. I’ll report on the results!
A colleague and I were asked to share our task management/planning strategies with the group. I’ve been using SkedPal for the last six months or so, and I think it offers some unique and powerful features that are particularly useful for academics, which I shared with the group.
SkedPal combines task management/to-do lists with your calendar. Once you link your Outlook or Google calendar, your tasks are scheduled around your calendar appointments. This is great for people who do not want to rely on their willpower or spend time throughout their day deciding what to do next — its already been cleverly scheduled for you! You estimate how long a task will take and SkedPal finds a gap in your calendar. But where SkedPal sets itself apart from other time management/to-do apps is through its use of ‘time maps’.
Time maps allow the user to designate blocks of time to certain tasks throughout their week. Every task is allocated to one or more time maps. For example, one of my time maps is called ‘writing’, and this covers Monday through to Friday, from 9-11am. Any tasks assigned to this ’time map’ will be scheduled for that period. Here is a look at my ‘writing’ time map.
I am in the final stages of completing my PhD, so anything related to my thesis is assigned to my writing time map. This means every day I know I have at least 2 hours I spend on my thesis. If there is not enough room for a particular task to be scheduled on a given day, then it will be scheduled to another day where there is a gap in my calendar. You can ensure a task is completed today by setting the due date as today. Giving it a ‘high priority’ flag will also promote this task over non-flagged tasks.
You might be concerned that having a calendar full all the time will make it hard for colleagues to schedule appointments. But there is a setting that allows all SkedPal tasks to appear as either ‘busy’ or ‘available’.
Other features include:
- You can automatically schedule a time buffer between tasks. Either as a fixed figure or as a percentage of the duration of the task, which is great in case something takes you longer than expected. If things go off the rails (e.g. unexpected meeting), you can always click reschedule and SkedPal will replan your day, based on your priorities, due dates and time maps.
- You can always click and drag tasks to manual reschedule them and they remain ‘pinned’ to that time even when you click reschedule.
- It is possible to partially complete large tasks, which may get split-up throughout your day (although you can specify the minimum block length, i.e. you don’t want to spend less than 1 hour or 30 minutes on a larger task). When you partially complete a task, when you reschedule your day the 1-hour’s work you completed on a 3-hour task is not ignored.
If you are struggling to find more time to write, I encourage you to consider SkedPal. They are currently offering a 14-day free trial, so you can try it risk-free and see if it works for you. It is available on Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS and Google Play. SkedPal is cloud-based, so all your apps sync in real time as well!
If you have any questions about how I use SkedPal, post them below. Likewise, I would like to hear what works for you. Do you use a lot of time maps or only a few?
Recent speculation has occurred about the potential for widespread unemployment as a result of artificial intelligence (‘AI’) replacing humans in the labour market.1 The concern is that as AI improves it will be to perform increasingly sophisticated tasks currently performed by humans at the same or lower cost. Advanced AI will also enable robots of the future to be more adaptive and capable.
Understandably, large-scale displacement of human labour is viewed as an impending social crisis.4 Max Tegmark has dedicated a brief section in his recent book Life 3.0 on career advice for children, which involves asking the following three questions:
Does [the position] require interacting with people and using social intelligence? Does it involve creativity and coming up with clever solutions? Does it require working in an unpredictable environment?5
This kind of forethought is not unwarranted, especially in America where the introduction of new technologies since WWII has led to a decoupling of productivity and average real earnings6 and where employment is tied to benefits like health insurance.7 The potential numbers of people displaced from work because of AI could cause a dramatic social and cultural upheaval, not unlike that of the Industrial Revolution.
On the other hand, many people lament returning to work after their holidays, especially after an extended break from work. This presents an interesting disconnect between the life most of us live (employed) and the life we most want to live (on holidays). Erik Brynjolfsson, an economist at MIT, has coined the term ‘Digital Athens’ for an Athenian-type return to leisure that AI could bring.8 But, this time, instead of a life of leisure built on the backs of slaves, AI and AI-related technologies could do most of the work that currently occupies our lives.9 Giving us the time to pursue what really interests us.
There are some obvious challenges that must be overcome before the utopian vision of Digital Athens is realised. Most obviously, income and the distribution of AI-generated wealth. But rather than fearing the inevitable progress of AI or convincing ourselves that new jobs will replace the old ones (as occurred during the Industrial Revolution), our time would be better spent devising a scheme for the equitable distribution of AI-generated wealth.
The other challenge associated with AI-related unemployment is the potential loss of meaning that many of us derive from working.10 To address this, we may return to some old ideas.
I recently learned of a revolutionary, anti-capitalist group called the Situationists, that gained some prominence in Europe from 1957-72.11 According to Gray, the Situationists worldview can be summarised as
a mélange of nineteenth-century revolutionary theories and twentieth-century vanguardist art. They took many of their ideas from anarchism and Marxism, Surrealism and Dada. But their most audacious borrowings were from a late-medieval sodality of mystical anarchists, the Breathren of the Free Spirit.12
The Situationists dreamed of a world where people did not need to work.13 Where humans could live a fulfilled life pursuing their true desires.14 Such a world may be possible with AI and AI-related technologies of the future.
The Situationists believed that automation would make physical labour unnecessary. While traditional automation has certainly replaced some forms of physical labour, labour is still required because automation largely remains unable to deal with novel situations. Advanced AI and AI-related technologies promise to overcome this challenge through deep learning based on artificial neural networks. Could AI deliver a modified version of the Situationists utopia after all?
The Situationists predicted ‘Without scarcity or work, there would be no need for conflict’.15 Certainly, if AI-generated wealth could be effectively and equitably distributed then it would eliminate many forms of conflict. This may also require some revision of our individual and collective wants. The Brethren of the Free Spirit and the Situationists believed that
Humans are gods stranded in a world of darkness. Their labours are not the natural consequnce of their inordinate wants. They are the curse of a demiurge. All that needs to be done to free humanity from labour is to throw off this evil power.16
Maybe part of the antidote for ennui caused by AI-related unemployment is to connect with our true needs? This could lead to a more meaningful existence and a life well-lived, which is what we all want.
I am also fairly lazy (just ask my partner, Aimee).
So doing things as efficiently as possible has been a long-standing interest of mine, even before returning to university. One of my goals in starting this blog is to share with you some of the more useful apps that you may like to integrate into your teaching/researching so you can spend more time researching, writing and otherwise having a life outside of academia.
I don’t claim to be some productivity guru. I am not. I have lost days being painfully unproductive. What I do know, is that I am generally more productive than ever before and this is due, in part, to the software I use.
We live in the golden age of apps. App development for Mac and iOS has become a lot simpler since the introduction of Swift, Apple Inc’s open source programming software, in 2014. Since then, it seems like everyone has turned their hand to app development. I have even been tempted to develop a few app ideas I have, but that is for another post.
As a starting point, I should outline the apps that I currently use. In subsequent posts, I will explain why I have chosen one app over the other and how it can benefit those working in academia. I hope to hear from some of you regarding other apps I may have overlooked.
In BETA but still my task management app of choice. More on this later.
For emails. Excellent new integration with Evernote.
As a repository for everything.
I have snippets for emails and marking work.
For custom keyboard shortcuts for common and repetitive tasks such as inserting a footnote into Scrivener.
For web-based articles I come across but don’t have time (or the inclination) to read now.
My word processor of choice for long-form documents, especially when using the Australian Legal Guide to Citation in footnotes. So much much stable than MS Word.
Citation software for the Australian Guide to Legal Citation and digital repository for all academic sources.
For accessing and annotating my digital academic library on the go.
For digitising hard-copy book chapters/ articles.
For OCR’ing scanned documents.
For tracking the time taken on specific tasks. Especially valuable when I need to submit timesheets for marking or research assistant work.
A current bill before the New South Wales Parliament proposes to end the use of sow-stalls.
If passed, New South Wales would become the second Australian jurisdiction to do so, after the Australian Capital Territory banned their use in 2014.
But in 2010, Australian Pork Limited (APL), the peak representative body for the pork industry, agreed to a voluntary phase-out of sow-stalls by 2017.
So why do we need a ban anyway?
The problem with sow-stalls
It is hard to say for certain the extent of physical and psychological harm caused by keeping pregnant pigs in sow-stalls. Key pieces of scientific research conducted in this area have been funded either in whole or part by APL. Whether or not this funding influences the research outcomes is difficult to say.
We also know that these intelligent animals will bite the bars of their cage to express boredom or frustration at their confinement. The pregnant sows develop skin abrasions from the metal bars as the stall is not much larger than their body.
Furthermore, such confinement deprives these pigs from exercising natural behaviours, such as foraging for food and nesting. It is these kinds of harms that have seen sow-stalls banned or their use substantially restricted in countries such as the United Kingdom, Sweden, and New Zealand, among others.
Why is a law to ban sow-stalls necessary?
The voluntary phase-out can be seen as the industries response to market-forces. Retailers such as Coles and Woolworths have already responded to this demand.
Coles’ own brand pork products have been sow-stall free since 2013, while Woolworths is committed to sourcing all its fresh pork products from producers who use sow-stalls for less than 10% of the sows’ gestation period.
Despite the apparent success of market forces, there remain important reasons why governments still need to regulate farm animal welfare.
There are important limitations to the APL’s voluntary phase-out.
First, the phase-out only applies to APL members. Only 38% of pork producers in Australia are APL members (although they account for 94% of pig meat products), so there will still be animals not covered under the voluntary scheme.
Second, as the phase-out is voluntary, APL members who choose not to comply cannot be forced to do so – although they may be engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct if they promote their products as sow-stall free.
Third, the voluntary phase-out will be policed through industry self-regulation. This appears to involve auditing by the Australian Pork Industry Quality Assurance Program, which is owned and managed by APL.
There are limits to the efficacy of industry self-regulation given the tension that can exist between profit maximisation and animal welfare goals.
Fourth, the voluntary phase-out will not mean pigs are free-range or free from confinement. The APL voluntary phase-out provides a qualified definition of “gestation stall free”, which will allow pigs to be confined to mating stalls and farrowing crates for up to 10% of their pregnancy.
Also, the alternate to sow-stalls proposed by APL is “loose housing”, which will not guarantee any access to the outdoors, opportunities for socialising or access to bedding/nesting materials.
The need for a ban
To protect all pregnant pigs from sow-stalls, laws must be passed in each Australian State and Territory. The ACT has already done so and the current NSW bill aims to follow in its footsteps.
Although the ACT never had sow-stalls operating in its territory, the amendment to its Animal Welfare Act will ensure it stays this way.
The NSW bill is closely modelled on the ACT amendment. Both provide for “appropriate accommodation” for all pigs.
Appropriate accommodation means that pigs must be able to turn around, stand up and lie down without difficulty. The floor is to be clean, comfortable and well-drained. The facilities must enable pigs to maintain a comfortable body temperature and have access to an outdoor area.
Unlike the ACT model, the NSW bill does allow pigs to remain wholly indoors provided bedding material and enrichment objects are made available and the pig is able to move about freely.
Another difference is the requirement that pigs be housed in “compatible groups”, being “a group of two or more pigs that can be kept together without undue stress to any of those pigs.” This will help reduce aggression and fighting between pigs.
A final difference between the ACT legislation and the NSW bill is that farrowing crates (which were designed to reduce the chance of piglets being trampled or crushed by the sow) will also be banned by 2020 if the NSW bill is successful.
Although a voluntary phase-out of sow-stalls may improve the lives of some pregnant sows, a law requiring all pork producers to provide “appropriate accommodation” for the pigs in their care is the better option. This will ensure the rule covers all producers and enables direct governmental oversight.
No doubt the bill will have some limitations. However, as the community’s expectations shift, the decision to end the use of sow-stalls should rest with parliament, not industry.
The report’s key recommendation is to establish a new statutory body to oversee the integrity of the sport, thus separating the Queensland racing industry’s integrity and commercial arms.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palazsczuk’s abolition includes the Queensland All Codes Racing Industry Board (trading as Racing Queensland), the Greyhound Racing Board, the Harness Racing Board and the Thoroughbred Racing Board.
The inquiry and action follows evidence and allegations of live-baiting documented in an ABC Four Corners exposé. But will the Premier’s actions fix the industry’s problems?
In the report’s most significant finding, Racing Queensland was found to have a conflict of interest resulting from its dual responsibilities for the commercial and integrity operations of the business. This finding has potentially far reaching consequences as such a conflict arguably exists in every state and territory in Australia where racing exists.
In addition, the final report made several important findings including the failure of industry self-regulation to protect the welfare of animals entrusted in its care. The inquiry was also highly critical of Racing Queensland for failing in its duties across all three sporting codes (greyhound, harness and thoroughbred racing).
The wide-ranging recommendations made by the inquiry not only address the issue of live baiting, but also tackles other welfare issues that have plagued the industry.
In particular, the inquiry takes aim at the issue of overbreeding, wastage, licensing and the traceability of greyhounds (a third of greyhound pups born in Queensland are unaccounted for).
Winning back public confidence
The final report and a subsequent statement made by the Queensland Premier make it clear that the primary aim of the inquiry is to restore public confidence in the racing industry. This is rightfully seen as a necessary pre-condition for the industry to be considered legitimate in the eyes of the public.
The inquiry hopes to achieve this aim through recommendations that promote the integrity of the industry and by safeguarding animal welfare. Public confidence can only be restored once these issues have been addressed.
In this regard, the live baiting of greyhounds is a rather unique issue as animal welfare and integrity overlap due to the perceived competitive advantage blooded greyhounds possess.
In fact, this may explain why live baiting has received such a strong response from the industry and state governments, whereas the issue of wastage has largely been ignored for years.
The integrity commission
The failure of Racing Queensland to effectively assess and manage risk across all three codes led the inquiry to recommend the creation of a new independent statutory authority, the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission (QRIC).
According to the inquiry, the QRIC is to be led by the existing role of Racing Integrity Commissioner who will be accountable directly to the Minister for Sport and Racing. The proposed responsibilities of the QRIC far exceed those fulfilled by the current racing Commissioner.
The QRIC is to be independent of Racing Queensland and the department. The majority of the members on the board of QRIC will also need to be independent of the racing industry for two years prior to their appointment.
The QRIC will be responsible for integrity and animal welfare issues, leaving Racing Queensland to focus on the commercial aspects to its business. In doing so, the Inquiry aims to redress Racing Queensland’s conflict in performing both the integrity and commerciality functions.
It all depends on funding
Given the stated aim of restoring public confidence in the industry, one may have expected greater discussion of the QRIC’s role in safeguarding animal welfare.
To be fair, the proposed QRIC will:
- use some of the resources of the Queensland Police Taskforce
- ensure adequate welfare arrangements for retired greyhounds, through the partial refund of a licensing fee
- take a “stronger emphasis on detection and response”.
But, greater emphasis on animal welfare may help to reassure the public that welfare will remain the primary focus, rather than integrity more broadly. After all, the public outrage after the ABC’s Four Corners program aired was in response to the horrific animal cruelty, not any concern that their flutter went on a race where one or more dogs had an unfair advantage.
Short of banning the sport, the creation of the QRIC is likely to be a positive step for the welfare of greyhounds. Separating the integrity and commercial operations of the industry will certainly help eliminate the conflict between drawing the crowds and the welfare of greyhounds.
Ultimately, the success of this recommendation will depend on the personnel staffing the new QRIC and its ability to secure adequate funding. These challenges are acknowledged by MacSporran and they cannot be understated.
Securing adequate funding for the QRIC may not be an issue in the short-term, but what happens when the media attention has moved on? Can we trust that the QRIC will be sufficiently funded even in a tight budget?
History would suggest not. According to the inquiry, the current funding of the Racing Integrity Commissioner’s role on a part-time basis was “inadequate” and “meagre”. How will the QRIC be any different?
Only time will tell.
Aaron Timoshanko, Sessional Academic and Research Assistant at Flinders University, PhD Candidate, Monash University and Christine Parker, Professor of Regulatory Studies and Legal Ethics, Monash University