The law is constantly evolving as society changes, norms are challenged, and new issues arise. And while some laws are more significant and have a greater impact than others, all these legal frameworks help contribute to the overall development of the nation.
Over the last decade, we have seen a number of significant changes to Australian law.
Let's take a look at some of the most significant changes that have occurred over the last ten years.
The way the constitution has fostered inclusivity for same-sex couples is one of the most significant developments in Australian law in recent years.
In the last decade, the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status Discrimination Act 2013 have been introduced to make it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status. This law included same-sex couples under the terms “marital or relationship status.”
Prior to 2017, same-sex couples were not able to marry in Australia. However, federal law still recognized same-sex couples as de facto partners, providing them with some legal protections, since 2009.
However, this restriction changed in December 2017 when the Australian Parliament passed the Marriage Amendment Act. This act amended the definition of marriage in the Marriage Act 1961 to include same-sex couples.
Another significant change to Australian law in recent years has been the introduction of euthanasia laws.
Prior to the passing of euthanasia laws, voluntary assisted dying has been deemed a criminal act in Australia. However, as of the past decade, assisted dying laws have now been passed in five of the six Australian states.
The first state to pass assisted dying laws was Victoria, in November 2017. This was followed by Western Australia, which passed the law in December 2019. Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory, and Queensland VAD laws will commence by 2023.
Under these new laws, people who are terminally ill and suffering from intolerable pain can request assistance from a doctor to end their life. Encouraging a person to take their own life outside of a VAD setting, however, is considered illegal.
The new euthanasia laws apply to terminally ill patients who are suffering from an incurable disease and have less than six months to live. Patients must also be over the age of 18 and possess sound thinking capabilities.
In May 2014, the NSW state government passed a series of changes to the Bail Act called the Bail Act 2013. This act revamped the original Bail Act of 1978, which made the bill easier to understand, more consistent, and better for the community overall.
One of the most significant changes is the addition of the unacceptable risk test, which takes into consideration whether the person will fail to appear before the court, endanger more victims, tamper with evidence, or pose a danger to the community.
Another change is the process of reapplying for bail. Under the new law, when bail is granted, it remains in place until the matter is finalized in court, rather than the accused having to reapply for bail each time they appear in court.
If you'd like to know more about this law, check this example for more information.
Asylum Seekers Laws
According to the Migration Amendment Bill 2021, refugees who face persecution in their home country will be allowed to stay in detention centers if they get their refugee visas cancelled. A refugee visa may be cancelled based on character grounds or immoral conduct.
This billing change was made to uphold the non-refoulement obligations under the Refugees Convention, to which Australia is a signatory. It's also a statement that Australians are committed to defending human rights.
The non-refoulement obligation under the Refugees Convention requires that refugees not be sent back to a country where their life or freedom would be threatened.
This change ensures that refugees who are found to be in need of protection will not be returned to a country where they face persecution.
Online Safety Laws
The Online Safety Act 2015 was introduced in an effort to make the internet a safer and more inclusive place for everyone, especially the youth.
The act was made to take reasonable steps to protect users from potentially harmful and offensive content. This makes social media companies, data brokerage companies, and large online platforms obligated to take stricter business measures when it comes to vetting the content they push.
In particular, the act aims to monitor and delist content that may be harmful to children, such as material that promotes violence or abuse.
These are just some of the ways in which Australian law has changed over the last decade.
With the advancement of technology, new social norms, and a dynamic health situation, it's likely that we'll see even more changes in the years to come.
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