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Legal Studies Units 3 & 4 > Influencing Legal Change > Flashcards

Flashcards in Influencing Legal Change Deck (25):

4 reasons why Laws may need to change

• Community values shifts
• Legal system expectations
• Protection of the community
• Technology


Community values shift

In our society, values and attitudes have changed over the years. If a law is not accepted by the community it could lead to more and more people being willing to disobey the law. In order for the law to remain acceptable it must change to keep up with these changing values.


Expectations of the legal system force for change

The expectation is now for law-makers to be as proactive as possible and protect individuals from harm, not just legislate ‘after the fact’. For example the road safety amendment Act 2014 which tightened rules about interlock devices. This protected road users from drunk driving by ensuring that people who have had a certain number of drink driving incidents in the past had interlock devices fitted to their vehicles.


Technology force for change

Technology is constantly improving and opening up new frontiers. As it improves, new situations need to be covered by the law to reduce the opportunity for individuals and groups being exploited or harmed.


Means of influencing legal change

There are various ways in which individuals and groups may influence a change in the law. There are two avenues in which law reform bodies, individuals and groups may choose to influence a change in the law.

Formal pressures include actions of formal law reform bodies that are bodies that are part of the structure of parliament/government and

Informal pressures include individuals + groups outside of this structure attempting to influence legal change such as members of the community organising petitions and demonstrations.


Petitions means for change

A written statement calling on parliament to change a law and listing the signatures of those in support of the petition. The
petition is presented by a member of parliament to parliament.
The petition and the number of signatures are recorded in Hansard.


Petitions medical cannabis

In 2014 a woman created a petition to decriminalise medicinal cannabis at the time her son Daniel was terminally ill Medicinal cannabis would have eased his sickness. A quarter of a million people signed the petition and The Regulator of Medicinal Cannabis Bill (2014) was tabled in the federal parliament. In 2016 Victoria legalised medicinal cannabis.


3 strengths of petitions as a means for change

Influence: Petitions with a significant number of signatures can often be very influential

Awareness-raising: MPs are required to table the petition through parliament – therefore, even if unsuccessful, it can attract media attention and more MPs become aware of the issue.

Scope: E-petitions provide a greater scope.


4 weaknesses of petitions as a means for change

Petitions can minimize an issue: Petitions with very few signatures are not usually very persuasive as it conveys a lack of support.

Dependence on MPs: The influence of a particular petition is often dependent upon the MP who tables it

No guarantee of publicity: Petitions are not always the most effective method of gaining public/media attention.

Counter-petitions: Often there are opposing petitions – ‘for’ and ‘against’ the same issue which can reduce its impact.



Involve individualse or groups, on a large or small scale, voicing their disapproval of a specific area of the law through rallies, marches or boycotts alerting the government that there is a need to change the law.


Demonstrations example

In February 2017 Melbourne taxi drivers made a demonstration as a convoy drove slowly across the bolte bridge to cause traffic jams. They were protesting the Victorian governments plan to buy back taxi licences and legalise ride sharing service. They were seeking better compensation than what the government is currently paying in the buyback of taxi licences.


3 strengths of demonstrations

Publicity: Likely to have a big impact on the media/public as they are often televised.

Support: with media support, they are likely to gain wide support in the community and nationally for a cause

Awareness: can arouse public awareness of the issue


3 weaknesses of demonstrations

Time: Demonstrations are very time consuming.

Coordination: Demonstrations often require the coordination of large groups of people which can prove difficult.

Low support: If the matter does not have wide support demonstrations do not have a significant impact and if the demonstrations involve acts of violence or unlawful acts it may result in adverse media attention and reduce public support.


Use of the media means for change

Legal change can also be influenced via the media including: Newspapers, Radio, Television, The Internet and Social networking platforms i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. In using these platforms, individuals and groups who seek to influence legal change can capitalize on the scope of social networking, allowing them to reach people that they otherwise would not be able to.


3 strengths of the media as a means for change

Mass publicity: Increases public awareness on a grand scale.

Political influence: More likely to entice politicians to represent the cause.

Accessibility: As most people have internet access they have more information to form their own political judgements.


3 weaknesses of use of the media as a means for change

Over-simplification: Does not necessarily represent the issue in its entirety as broadcasting may miss integral parts.

Opposition: can show that there are very strong conflicting views on an issue, such as same-sex marriages, which will deter the government from changing laws in this area

Reliability: The media is not the most reliable means of communication as issues can be sensationalized or treated insensitively.


Describe why Laws may need to change

The law must meet our changing needs as a society as Parliament is supposed to make Laws based on the people's interests and these interests constantly change. Therefore, the law cannot remain completely static. In order to operate effectively, the law must be modified in conjunction with changing values, expectations and community awareness.


3 Strengths of using the vlrc as a method for influencing legal change.

• EFFECTIVENESS The government has asked the VLRC to investigate an area and therefore the government is more likely to act on its report on the need for change

• GAUGE OPINION can gauge public opinion by receiving public submissions and holding seminars in which people can have their say

• COMPREHENSIVE INVESTIGATION is able to investigate an area comprehensively so the government can initiate a new law that covers a whole issue,


3 weaknesses of the VLRC

• RESTRICTIONS can only investigate issues referred to it by the government or minor issues that it can look into without a reference

• OBLIGATION there is no obligation on the part of the government to follow any of the recommendations made

• RESOURCES investigations can be time-consuming and costly


Media example

In 2017 a number of letters to the editor were published in a range of newspapers such as the age on the topic of medically supervised injection centres. The prominence of this issue in newspapers will let the government know that this is something Victorians want and it might encourage the victorian government into implementing these injection centres.


Effectiveness of petitions

Petitions are easy to organise and provide for a peaceful means to influence change. A petition can draw parliament's attention to an issue. However, once a petition has been presented there is no guarantee that parliament will take any further action. The number of signatures indicating support for the petition may influence members of parliament.


The effectiveness of use of the media

The use of the media can create public awareness of an issue and increase support. By using the media, individuals and groups can demonstrate public support for their view. The effectiveness of this method may be limited because:

the media do not always publish or broadcast the views of all groups or consider particular issues.

views expressed in the media may reflect the views of vocal minorities.

the argument may not be expressed well or persuasively.


Effectiveness of demonstrations

Demonstrations draw attention to an issue, demonstrate the extent of public support and attract media attention. However, if the demonstration involves acts of violence or unlawful acts it may result in adverse media attention and reduce community support.
Boycotts are only effective if a number of people agree to take action


Protection of the community force for change

The community needs to be protected so that it can continue functioning in a harmonious way. One of the major roles of the law is to protect individuals from harm, whether it is physical harm or unfair or unscrupulous practices. Laws are therefore needed to make unlawful those actions that may harm the community or individual members of the community. As new situations arise, new laws are required.


Explain three ways the media can be used to influence the government to initiate a change in the law.

TELEVISION. Many television programs investigate problems in the community to inform the community of injustices and the need for changes in the law. These programs, such as the ABC’s Four Corners, can influence governments in deciding if there is sufficient community support for a change in the law.

RADIO There are many talkback shows on the radio that allow individuals to communicate their opinions about defects in the law and the need for change. Raising issues on radio can be very influential as it is likely to bring the matter to the attention of many people, which can lead to other people demanding a change in the law.

NEWSPAPER It is possible for an individual to send letters or emails to the editor of a newspaper with comments about how the law needs to be changed. Publication of such letters or emails can alert the public and the law-makers to a need for a change in the law, or the inappropriateness of a suggested change in the law.

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