Australia and Asia: Regulatory Perspectives on continuity and change

A conference on Australia and Asia, Regulatory Perspectives, hosted by Monash Business School, Governance and Regulation Research Network (GARNET) and the Asia-Pacific Regulation Research Group, will be held on Wednesday 17thNovember 2021

Contributing to Veronica Taylor’s 1997 edited volume Asian Laws Through Australian Eyes (Sydney, LBC Information Services), Malcolm Smith presented Australians as largely ignorant of Asian legal systems, or as tending to view them inferior to their own.  A quarter of a century later, have Australian comparative lawyers moved on from the orientalist debates of the 1990s?  Is Australia any closer to understanding the complexity, diversity and (often rapidly) evolving nature of Asian legal systems?  These are the broad questions this workshop aims to explore.   

Assertions that Australia’s future prosperity is tied to the region sit uncomfortably alongside claims that ‘Asian’ legal systems lack the reliability and impartiality necessary for full participation in a globalised world.[1]  Underlying assumptions that economic prosperity would bring growing acceptance of rule of law fundamentals including a free press and independent judiciary have also been unsettled.[2]   China’s ability to participate in and benefit from global trade has not, it seems, been impeded by its lack of an independent judiciary or a free press.  Nor has China’s economic success resulted in growing acceptance of rule of law institutions.

While China is the current preoccupation of Australian lawmakers, debates on rule of law versus the socialist legality of ‘rule by law’ are alive and vigorous throughout the region.[3]  Australia’s own ostensible commitment to the rule of law is articulated in a 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper; and forms a key feature of bilateral foreign aid programs. Despite the rhetoric, however, actual development assistance for legal and judicial development in the Asia Pacific reached a high around 2010-12; and has since fallen back.   

Only 11 of Australia’s 40 domestic universities offer Asian Studies courses in 2021.  The picture for Asian language education in schools is even worse, with a declining proportion of students at all levels studying one of the four key Asian languages.  So far as the study of Asian law is concerned, by 2020 there were only 34 ‘permanent’ academics based in Australian law schools with a primary focus on Asian law, most of whom remain concentrated at just five of the 44 law schools in Australia.[4]

Despite valiant efforts by leading Asian and comparative law scholars in Australia (including those involved in establishing the Australian Journal of Asian Law), the methodological project in Asian regulatory studies remains under-developed.  Australian scholarly exchange with Asia has been further challenged by Covid-19, and by political developments in Asian nations.  Regional research-related travel and scholarly exchanges have been abandoned or stalled, while budgetary demands throughout an economically stricken region have relegated comparative legal knowledge and understanding to the bottom of funding priority lists. 

This workshop invites papers which engage with and address the theoretical, methodological and pedagogical project of comparative legal studies in Asia. Papers are invited on topics including, but not limited to:

  • To what extent have legal epistemologies evolved and changed since the Asian Financial crisis of 1997?   How have patterns of cross-pollination of regional legal epistemologies evolved and changed? 
  • Have research methodologies in regulatory studies moved on from the comparative law debates of the 1990s? Are there different, priorities and resources?  Are there different patterns of scholarly exchange?
  • What impact have political, economic and social changes, including those associated with globalisation, had on the practice of regulatory studies and pedagogy in Asia?  How has the relationship between politics and regulation evolved? 
  • How have regulatory approaches been shaped by and sought to shape regional engagement at different levels in different contexts? 
  • What is the role of Asian diasporas in the formation of diverse regulatory frameworks in Australia?  What is the role of Australian ‘soft power’ initiatives in shaping regulatory systems in Asia?
  • Case studies from Asia-Pacific jurisdictions of evolving approaches towards 21st century regulatory challenges.

Keynote Speakers: Professor Tim Lindsey, Melbourne Law School; Professor Veronica Taylor, ANU; Professor Melissa Crouch, UNSW

For more information and to register see here