Rule of Law – Project Rationale

When I began this project at the start of the semester, I was a little lost as to what I was going to do and who I was going to work with. Having only moved to Sydney this year from Western Australia and not knowing any non-for-profit or community organisations I was quickly extremely concerned with how I was going to progress with this course. After doing some research, which included a lot of googling ‘non-for-profit organisations Sydney,’ I stumbled across the Rule of Law Institute, an organisation I knew nothing about. I didn’t know whether they needed any help, let alone what my project would be should they consent to my volunteering for their organisation.
This project provided myself with an invaluable experience. The Rule of Law Institute of Australia serves a vital and important role in promoting civic education and an understanding of the rule of law for the youth of Australia. My project was based on providing the Rule of Law Institute with my most valuable asset, and the asset they lacked, time. The few staff at the Rule of Law Institute are too busy to be able to take time out of their days to focus on reading multiple articles, reports, periodicals and laws. I filled this void and did the research that was necessary for those working at the Rule of Law Institute to write an article for the journal LexisNexis.
The research project I embarked on was focussed on gathering the background information on the state of the rule of law in Hungary, Poland, the Philippines and Australia. Although this project was extremely conventional in an academic context and lacked the creativity of some of the other projects, it provided me with the skills necessary to work in a research institution or think tank in both Australia and beyond. To know that the research I compiled on the rule of law was going to serve a purpose in an academic journal was extremely fulfilling, Furthermore, before embarking upon the research I first had to learn about the rule of law itself, what it is, where it comes from, what constitutes it.
The significance of this project is where its importance is realized. Firstly, the project allowed for the Rule of Law Institute to continue focussing their work on their civic education projects and to continue spreading the rule of law. Secondly, the project will directly contribute to the understanding of the state of the rule of law globally, something that is in crisis. This project will allow for continued intellectual debate and has directly contributed to the development of the scholarship on the rule of law. Finally, and most importantly, it serves a purpose of delving into the role of the rule of law in Australia and how the Institute can mould its education and lobbying to those areas that need most attention within Australia. In my research, I found that there is an immense amount of complacency towards the rule of law in Australia, and this leaves the Australian public open to rights violations and exploitation by the government and our legal system. There appears to be a great need for rule of law academic work in Australia given this complacency, as it is only through academic work that support for the Rule of Law Institute can be developed and grow. Through my contribution to this journal article, hopefully this will be addressed in some regard, especially given the focus I placed on the anti-terror legislation that is extremely dangerous to the Australian public.
My research project has been extremely valuable, to my own personal growth as a junior historian, to the development of the rule of law in Australia, and to the Rule of Law Institute. Most importantly, it has been a tremendous and valuable learning experience, both in the information I learnt about the state of the rule of law but also in the opportunities there are beyond the realm of academia for historians.
I encourage anyone reading this to read about the Rule of Law Institute and all the vital work they do.

Rule of Law Institute of Australia

Rule of Law – 3

The state of the Rule of Law globally is beginning to consume me. Sitting in the NSW State Library on Wednesday this week I found myself being confused, perplexed and horrified all at the same time. It appears to me that the world is slowly but surely falling apart.
In Australia the rule of law is almost guaranteed. It isn’t guaranteed in our constitution like it is in the USA (The Bill of Rights, being the first ten amendments to the constitution, protects the rule of law) but it is generally upheld steadfastly by our support of an independent judiciary and the bicameralism of our government system. The upper house can more or less guarantee that no one party can hold an absolute majority and, although this has happened in the past, it does not mean that the constitution can be changed through parliament, with a referendum being necessary to change the constitution.
This is not the case in Hungary. In 2010, a disenfranchised and angry electorate elected the right wing politician Victor Orban and his Fidesz Party to power with a two thirds majority in the Hungarian Parliament. As Prime Minister, Victor Orban had a large enough majority to change the constitution through uncontested legislation. Immediately the government introduced their own constitution and took control of the judiciary, essentially creating a democratically elected autocratic state. Now having the power over the courts, there is no force with the ability to declare anything he does within the country as unconstitutional. Thus we have seen the end of liberal democracy in Hungary. This story is not limited to Hungary. Poland has introduced similar measures and has begun to systematically undermine the post-Cold War liberal democracy.
This project has begun to open my eyes to an issue of unparalleled importance and has left me feeling a sense of dread. Will this just be a case in the fledgling democracies of Eastern Europe and Asia, or will history repeat itself with dramatic consequences.

Rule of Law – 2

‘I do not like blogging. It is most certainly not my thing.’ This is probably the thought that has come into my head the most as I try and plough through website after website, document after document, trying to get my head around the rule of law and its importance to the liberal democratic world order.
This week I began my in depth research, going through the dozen or so websites that were provided to me by my supervisor from the Rule of Law Institute. Each website provides various examples of the rule of law not being followed around the world. I feel I am getting sucked into a world in which I am going to become very frustrated with the way things are done, or in this case, not done.
I think it is important for this blog that I explain the basic principles of the rule of law. There are four basic principles that compromise the rule of law according to the World Justice Project (this website provided me with the best and probably the simplest description, so it is a good starting point). These four points are as follows:
1. Accountability
The government as well as private actors are accountable under the law.
2. Just Laws
The laws are clear, publicized, stable, and just; are applied evenly; and protect fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property and certain core human rights.
3. Open Government
The processes by which the laws are enacted, administered, and enforced are accessible, fair, and efficient.
4. Accessible & Impartial Dispute Resolution
Justice is delivered timely by competent, ethical, and independent representatives and neutrals who are accessible, have adequate resources, and reflect the makeup of the communities they serve.
These four principles together constitute working definition of the rule of law, developed in accordance with internationally accepted standards and norms. From these principles, I was able to quickly grasp the basic idea of the rule of law and begin to look at its implementation around the world. Now that I have gotten a basic grasp on the idea of the rule of law, it is now time to begin an analysis of the state of the rule of law world wide, focussing on Poland, the Philippines, China and the USA.

Rule of Law

This course perplexed me. Going into it I didn’t really no what to expect. What was I to be doing? What was going on? 4000 words is a big essay. Just your usual student freakout things. However, from the first lecture this course had me excited. As Michael was describing what our project was to be or what it could be on I found myself running through the ideas in my head thinking of all the things I could possibly do. I though about going back to my home in WA and doing something with a community group there but the logistics made that almost impossible. Very quickly I began to run out of ideas and my being new to Sydney made finding a local organisation extremely difficult and stressful.
It was at this point in my research I stumbled across the Rule of Law Institute. This non-for-profit institute struck me due to its previous name, The Magna Carta Institute, which drew me in, wanting to know more. I emailed their education coordinator, Jackie, and she quickly got back to me saying she had something I could work on. I went to their office on Macquarie Street, excited to find out more about this organisation that I had never heard of. I met with Jackie who instantly began to describe the work Rule of Law has done, from lobbying the government to adhere to the rule of law to educating students in NSW and beyond about the importance of the rule of law and how we must all make sure that the rule of law is upheld.
I was immediately spellbound, sucked into this world of legal matters that I had never before delved into. Jackie then began to explain my project, stating that I would be doing research into the state of the rule of law around the world, focussing on Australia, Poland, Zimbabwe and the Philippines. I realised that this project was the one for me, linking my double majors with history and government and international relations through its use of both research and analysis from a historical and political framework.
I have been pointed in the direction to look, now I must find the research and delve into the historical issues surrounding the rule of law in these countries. Wish me luck!