News: Re-reading Monis v the Queen

The High Court’s judgment, Monis v The Queen [2013] HCA 4, concerns the meaning and validity of the federal government’s ban on offensive postal communications. However, the case is known for many more things: the extremity of the communications sent by the defendants to bereaved families condemning the deceased’s involvement in military operations; the rare evenly divided High Court ruling, upholding the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal’s dismissal of the defendants’ pre-trial challenge to the statute’s constitutionality; Justice Dyson Heydon’s final judgment, quoting Kipling’s My Boy Jack and condemning the implied freedom of political expression as he applied it (one of the ‘great dissents’ nominated in Andrew Lynch’s edited collection); later accusations against the defendants of much more serious crimes; and, finally and most dramatically and sadly, Man Haron Monis’s killing of two people (and his own death) during the siege of Martin Place’s Lindt Cafe.

It is not surprising that the case continues to draw academic attention. The latest instance is an entire book devoted to the case. Federation Press’s The Critical Judgments Project: Re-Reading Monis v the Queen, edited by UNSW’s Gabrielle Appleby and Rosalind Dixon, is an extension of the Australian Feminist Judgments Project, which added concurring or dissenting judgments from multiple authors to a series of famous Australian judgments. The new book, by contrast, examines a single judgment from fifteen different academic perspectives from multiple authors, culminating in re-writing of the Monis decision. The chapters are:

  1. Critical thinking in constitutional law and Monis v The Queen: Gabrielle Appleby and Rosalind Dixon
  2. Law and Literature – Analysing style in judgment writing: Gabrielle Appleby and Heather Roberts
  3. Feminism and the Public-Private Divide: Margaret Thornton
  4. Anti-subordination Feminism: Beth Gaze
  5. Queer Theory and Poststructuralist Feminism: Anne Macduff and Wayne Morgan
  6. Critical race theory and the constitutionality of hate speech regulation: Katharine Gelber
  7. Intersectional Theory: Where Gender Meets Race, Ethnicity and Violence: Megan Davis
  8. An international human rights law perspective: Andrew Byrnes
  9. A Capabilities Approach: Rosalind Dixon
  10. Political Liberalism: Denise Meyerson
  11. Deliberative Democracy: Peter Burdon and Alexander Reilly
  12. A restorative justice approach: Melanie Schwartz and Anna Olijnyk
  13. Preventive Justice: Tamara Tulich
  14. Law and Economics: Richard Holden
  15. Critical Judging: Margaret Davies

Adding extra significance to this collection is the unresolved nature of the constitutional issue addressed in Monis, due to the original split decision, the Court’s new approach to limits on freedom of expression, past and pending changes to the Court’s make-up and the question of whether the same analysis would apply to the federal ban on offensive online communication.

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About Jeremy Gans

Jeremy Gans is a Professor in Melbourne Law School, where he researches and teaches across all aspects of the criminal justice system. He holds higher degrees in both law and criminology. In 2007, he was appointed as the Human Rights Adviser to the Victorian Parliament's Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee.

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