Public Law – Issue Three

In the summer edition of our newsletter for the public sector, you’ll find inspiration about how to live your best life in 2019, have your taste buds tantalised by an Australia Day recipe, and hear about the important work that is happening to improve social infrastructure for housing society’s most vulnerable.

And there’s plenty more of interest.

If you have any comments on what you would like to see in Public Law or any questions on what is featured, please let us know.

Empowering our best lives in 2019

As we embark upon the New Year, I want to share with you the lessons I learnt during 2018 that I hope might help each of us to live our own best life – whatever form that takes – in 2019.

I started 2018 listening to the incredibly engaging book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. Angela’s ground-breaking empirical research demonstrates that regular people can aspire to true greatness through an unwavering devotion and commitment to excellence, rather than innate talent. That grit, Angela shows, is born of passion and purpose. Follow yours to watch your dreams unfold.

I then listened to a life-changing book, What I Know for Sure by Oprah Winfrey, after a friend raved about it. If you want to go on a journey of inspiration about how to live the life of your dreams, there is no better place to start.

Listening to that book, I was struck by the quote:

‘Barn’s burnt down, now I can see the moon.’ - Mizuta Masahide.

My (figurative) barn burnt down the following day. In that time, I was drawn back to a book I had started previously but abandoned in the first five minutes: A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle. I was now ready to hear Eckhart’s words of wisdom. What has stayed with me is the truth that we need not be controlled by our thoughts, or our emotions, or by those of others. Our true selves lie deep within the trappings and the layers of our lives. Inside, there is stillness. We just have to listen for it.

Our humanity is never more raw than when I hear of it breaking, in a suicide. I was deeply saddened to learn of the recent suspected suicide of a well-loved Australian, who was a great champion of the RUOK? message.

Much has rightly been said of her beauty and generosity as a person, and of the great contribution that she made. I am reminded that the message of RUOK? is for every one of us, not just everyone other than ourselves.  May we connect in an authentic and honest way, not just to hear others but to be heard ourselves. Every house has a couch on which a weary soul can rest. Allow those who care about you to care for you.

I found more enlightenment from the guru of mindfulness, Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn.  In an interview, he said:

‘If you miss the look in your child’s eye one day, you’ve missed it… If you sum that over many moments, many years, you may wind up missing the most beautiful aspects of your own life… Who tells oneself I don’t have any time, when all you’ve got is time.’

All we have is the present moment. Not yesterday; it is past. Not tomorrow; it may not be. All we have is now. Are we fully experiencing this present moment?

I am, in this moment, writing to you sitting under a leafy tree in a vast paddock adjoining the Murray River, accompanied by my beautiful bay mare and rescue greyhound. May the joy, wisdom and serenity of this place be in yours, wherever that may be.

2019, let us begin.

By Kathryn Howard

‘whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it; boldness has genius, power and magic in it.’ - Goethe

Aged care royal commission update

Some important issues have been clarified at the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality & Safety’s first hearing, held in Adelaide on 18 January. The Commission has confirmed that Approved Providers must make themselves available and cannot prevent, discourage or penalise witnesses who assist or attend the

Commission. The Commission will be issuing notices to provide information soon, which the Commission has indicated will allow limited time to respond. Heavy penalties apply for non-compliance. The Commission will be comparing data sets, which we understand to mean matching information produced to the Commission with information previously reported by Approved Providers. Approved Providers should start preparing now. Please contact Alison Choy Flannigan or Jacob Uljans for assistance.

Australia day recipe

Broccoli Spaghetti

For Partner Natalie Bannister, Australia Day is an opportunity to celebrate the great cultural diversity that Australia is built on.

‘My mother immigrated to Australia from Sicily in the late 1940s. She was part of a wave of migrants from Italy and Greece that made such an impact on Melbourne’s food, coffee and wine scene. To honour that, I usually cook a simple lunch of Sicilian food for our family and friends on Australia Day.

I inherited this recipe from my Nonna. It is simple, traditional, cheap and very healthy. Most importantly, it’s delicious and a lot tastier than its four ingredients would suggest.’

  • A large head of fresh broccoli
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Dried red chilli flakes and salt (to taste)
  • A packet of spaghetti (I prefer the dried variety for this recipe)

Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add a liberal amount of salt.

Cut the broccoli into small florets (about the size of a 20 cent piece) and place into the boiling water.

After about 5 minutes, when the broccoli has turned a bright green, add the spaghetti into the same pot and cook until al dente.

While the spaghetti is cooking, finely chop the garlic and sauté over a gentle heat in enough oil to lightly coat the spaghetti (generally around 3 to 4 tablespoons), then add the flakes. Don’t let the garlic brown.

Drain the pasta and broccoli mix and add to the garlic, chili and oil and toss to mix through. Season to taste. Voila!

(Serves 4)

Get involved

Tackling housing affordability together

How can councils, community housing providers, developers and financiers work more effectively together and with government to help deliver the social and affordable housing Australia needs? This was the key question addressed when we hosted clients, academics and key stakeholders from the public and private sectors in a special forum in Melbourne late last year.

While the Chatham House Rule applied, there was widespread support for the need to shift the dialogue from ‘housing’ to ‘social economic infrastructure’, given it is an investment in human capital with all the health and economic benefits that directly flow from housing society’s most vulnerable.

Robert Pradolin, founding chair of Housing All Australians, a private sector advocacy group on social and affordable housing, stated: ‘Housing is the fundamental economic building block of every society.

We need high profile business leaders (the private sector) collaborating and speaking together with one voice about the long term cost implications to society of not providing housing for all.’

We were delighted that Martine Letts, Committee for Melbourne CEO, joined us at this event, so we could learn more about the important work her team is undertaking in this area.

Martine advised that ‘Committee for Melbourne’s members identified “Housing Mix” as a Strategic Need via its

Melbourne 4.0 report which will guide the Committee’s future agenda with a series of tangible policy initiatives. This has been identified as a priority due to the high cost of living – of which housing costs are a major determinant – which has a detrimental effect on a city’s creativity and innovative capacity. Expensive cities make self-employment and entrepreneurship more difficult. In addition, without affordable housing, emergency and public service workers will be unable to live near their place of work.’

Committee for Melbourne’s Housing Mix Taskforce is leveraging the collective knowledge of the Committee’s members to create a policy framework based on the multifaceted approach required to tackle housing affordability. The Committee’s Taskforce will identify further collaboration opportunities between existing stakeholders to consolidate and augment the positive work already underway in the affordable housing ecosystem.

Broad alignment and enormous goodwill exists to take this collective initiative forward. Your participation is most welcome and encouraged.

New guide for VCP list – we want you!

We are seeking to empower and connect professional women working in the Valuation, Compensation and Planning List and related lists in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

At our recent lunch, which Supreme Court Justice Melinda Richards and VCAT President Justice Michelle Quigley attended, guests discussed how to better foster female participation and committed to creating a public guide to professional women working in this space.

If you would like to be included in this guide, please contact Kathryn Howard to provide your contact and specialisation details. We plan to publish the guide in soft and hard copy in February.

Calling all athletes

Our colleagues at Proximity are getting the New Year off to a great start with the Proximity Canberra Triathlon

Festival at Lake Burley Griffin on 9 February. You can race as a team or solo to complete a 200m swim, 10km bike ride and 2km run or walk. The Corporate and Community category is designed for people of all fitness levels.

Meet Matt Smith

This month we introduce Matt Smith, who is a partner in the corporate and commercial team in our Newcastle office.

My perfect Saturday morning is: a nice surf at my local beach with two of my brothers, followed up by coffee at my brother’s house overlooking the ocean.

My favourite restaurant is: a little vegetarian restaurant in Newcastle called ‘Momo’. The food is fresh and amazing and it’s my favourite lunch place.

Do you play an instrument? No, but my New Year’s resolution is to learn to play the guitar.

The best advice I received: my mum’s favourite saying: ‘Don’t give up until the dead horse kicks you!’

If I won Tattslotto, the first thing I would do is: pack my bags for an extended surf trip. When I was 19, I went on a three-month surf trip to Indonesia – best trip ever!

My hidden talents: I have a little bit of talent with painting and sketching.

My career highlight is: an M&A transaction for a major government water utility. The transaction provided a great public benefit for the local community.

My favourite album is: hard to choose because I like a lot of different genres but probably Frank Zappa’s One Size Fits All as it has lots of different crazy tunes!

The best advice I give to a client was given to me by a very successful client when I was a junior lawyer: ‘the secret to success is to surround yourself with good people.’


Test case for ICPs

We are advising the Victorian Planning Authority on a test case concerning the Infrastructure Contributions Plans (ICPs) for Mt Atkinson/Tarneit Plains and Donnybrook/Woodstock. The ICPs will provide the structure and mechanism for funding of key infrastructure items in these precincts. The case considers the first ICPs based on ‘benchmark costs’ for standard infrastructure items and will make law in the planning space.

Bullying and mental health

We have provided strategic advice to a public sector organisation about managing an investigation into a bullying and misconduct allegation in circumstances complicated by the complainant being on leave with a mental health illness. We have assisted with managing the fine balance between the need to proceed with the investigation for fairness to all parties and accommodating the needs and rights of the unwell complainant.

Defending a tender process

We advised a Victorian local government council after it received complaints from a disgruntled, unsuccessful tenderer about the council’s award of a multi-year contract to the complainant’s competitor.

With the threat of potential legal action looming, the Council was relieved to hear that the Council’s procurement obligations fairly operate in respect of contract value awarded, rather than the value proposed by a tenderer. Even if a breach occurred (which it did not), case law indicates that courts are reluctant to invalidate the contract ultimately awarded if an innocent third party contractor would be affected (Tonkin v Cooma-Monaro Shire Council [2006] NSWCA 50).

This was great news for our client, the successful contractor and the community who proceeded to benefit from the services.

Privacy on portals

We advised a public sector organisation on the privacy law considerations regarding personal information being displayed on a private member portal. Our advice provided practical solutions to assist the organisation to provide information to its members in a helpful and efficient manner, but in a way that doesn’t breach privacy laws.


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