Lecturer: Greg Weeks (2013)
What is the course about?
The course builds on the core course of Administrative Law by exploring public law (and particularly administrative law) issues which are beyond the scope of a compulsory course. The content varies from year to year in order to match the expertise of the various guest lecturers who contribute to the course, but has in the past included issues as varied as:
- The possibility of a damages remedy;
- A retrospective of AG v Quin;
- The impact of the Tampa case on reviewing exercises of executive power
- Government liability in tort;
- Non-court based justice;
- Judicial review of private bodies;
- Public and private remedies against public authorities; and
- Holding public bodies to their promises in the absence of public law estoppel.
Why does the subject interest you?
I am an administrative lawyer. The topics chosen for this course are the things that fascinate me most. I have the luxury, as the convenor (and only full-time lecturer), to choose to explore all of the things that I find interesting. As an added benefit, the research conducted by the students under my supervision expands on the coverage of the course and has turned up some truly captivating subjects (a number of which have ultimately been accepted for publication in academic journals). I love working with students to develop the areas in which they choose to research.
Do you have any advice to give students who are interested in taking this course?
You do not need to have been a standout performer in Administrative Law; you need simply to have an interest in public law issues. People who are ready to form opinions, and debate them, tend to have enjoyed the course particularly in previous years.
How will this course be relevant, say, a year after graduating?
If you intend to practise in any area related to government, this course is virtually compulsory. Even if you don’t, having a sound and expansive knowledge of public law issues is one of the things that will set you apart as a graduate lawyer. Even in commercial law firms, public law issues come up more than you might imagine. Leaving all of that aside, exposing yourself to legal issues which are not directly ‘relevant’ to your practise but are important and interesting is a good way to ensure that you will be a lawyer with a breadth of understanding. All of the best lawyers know lots about legal issues that they don’t deal with daily.
Student: Daniel Reynolds (2013)
A brief overview of the course:
The course consists of four full-day classes during the first half of semester, each taught in part by Greg Weeks and in part by a guest lecturer. The guest lecturers are serious heavyweights in the world of admin law (and indeed, in the world of law generally). This semester we were fortunate enough to be lectured by John McMillan (the Australian Information Commissioner), Mark Aronson (a leading Australian academic on administrative law), David Bennett (the former Solicitor-General of Australia), and Keith Mason (the former President of the Court of Appeal of New South Wales). The four main topics we covered were (i) government promises; (ii) proceedings and remedies against public authorities; (iii) controlling the executive; and (iv) dealing with public authorities without public law. A good deal of the course time is spent in open class discussion, which is extremely beneficial when your classmates are smarter than you (as was my case).
What were the course assessments and your thoughts about them?
- Major 5,000 word essay (80%);
- Class participation (10%); and
- Brief presentation (10%).
Since the class participation and brief presentation ultimately feed into the work you do on the essay, the subject feels more like doing a research thesis (but with a lot more classmates). The essay can be on any administrative law-themed topic you like, and students in my year wrote about everything from big data, consolidated super tribunals, points of constitutional law, to the finer nuances of privative clauses. You get numerous opportunities to discuss your topic with other people, and several students in each year have gone on to have their papers published in the academic law journals.
What did you like about the course?
The line-up of guest lecturers was extremely impressive and we certainly benefitted a lot from their vast experience, as well as from the regular (and no less entertaining) lectures from Greg Weeks. The amount of engagement in the room was startling at times: I could never have imagined that so many people have such passionate views on jurisdictional error.
What could be improved?
I’m at pains to find anything negative to say about this course. After reviewing our CATEI feedback forms at the end of the course, Greg informed us that the most common answer for both the ‘Best Features of this Course’ and ‘This Course Could Be Improved By’ sections of the questionnaire was his beard. I think this goes some way towards demonstrating both Greg’s own warm and approachable teaching style, as well as the complete absence of any serious dissent about the way the course was run.
Do you have any other thoughts or comments?
Overall, I think this is a highly underrated course that every UNSW law student should seriously consider. It was definitely one of the most enjoyable subjects in my entire degree.