''The public interest'' is a phrase sprinkled through legislation with gay abandon. It sounds democratic and noble, but at the end of the rainbow it has to be interpreted by a judge, or a cluster of judges - a recipe for uncertainty, because the judges themselves are uncertain...In the government's issues paper on a cause of action for serious invasion of privacy, ''public interest'' appeared 57 times. In the Finkelstein report, it was 85 times, the same number of times it was mentioned in the Convergence Review (including 13 times on one page). No doubt it is a popular rubric because it artfully allows plenty of imprecision and circularity in its application....Really, a public interest test is fine, as long as no one tries to define it."
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Friday, June 29, 2012
"Public interest" no simple matter
In the context of the Rinehart interest in Fairfax, Murdoch's troubled times and faint rumbles from Canberra, Richard Ackland in the SMH and elsewhere today muses on the imprecision of terms currently being bandied about such as "public interest" and ''fit and proper person'' tests for media ownership. In a broader context, those who ply the legal practitioner trade have passed the latter. And access to information folk are well acquainted with the former.