The internet is vast and, apparently, full of #fakenews. One survey said 98 per cent of Americans don’t trust what they read online. So how are you supposed to know where to go when researching something you’re already confused by – like the rule of law?
The answer is, you’re not. But we are! That’s why we’ve compiled this handy list to help you find the best, most reliable and accurate rule of law resources. And yes, we realise the massive irony in publishing this list online. Happy researching!
1. World Justice Project
The World Justice Project (WJP) is an independent, global organisation that works to monitor and advance the rule of law around the world. Its website has some really useful resources including a clear definition of the rule of law based on four principles that countries under the rule of law must uphold.
However, the most unique and fascinating part of the WJP site is its “Rule of Law Index”, which gathers data to test the strength of the rule of law in countries around the world. The latest Index, published in 2016, covers 113 countries and jurisdictions and relies on more than 100,000 household and expert surveys to measure how the rule of law is experienced by the general public in different countries.
Countries are given a score out of 1 (for example, 0.5) and are ranked on eight factors that influence the strength of the rule of law, such as the absence of corruption and the strength of their civil and criminal justice systems. Bolivia received a score of 0.40, while Australia received 0.81. Denmark topped the rankings with a score of 0.89, while the US lagged with a score of 0.74.
The Rule of Law Institute of Australia also has a helpful definition of the rule of law, including a list of principles that should be applied under the rule of law. While the site seems largely geared towards high school students who might be studying legal studies in Year 11 and 12, it actually houses an immense amount of content and resources that could be useful to readers of any age.
There are videos, posters and study guides that explain complex legal principles and apply them to real situations in Australia. For example, the discussion on mandatory sentencing and its interference with the independence of judges is excellent.
While the site is not all that exciting to look at (think web pages from the early 2000s), the interactive study guide is easy to navigate and useful for anyone interested in learning about the rule of law at work in Australia.
3. The Law Council of Australia
The Law Council of Australia is the national representative body of the Australian legal profession and represents 65,000 Australian lawyers through the various law societies and bar associations around Australia. In other words, don’t argue with these guys. You can trust the content to be meticulously researched and accurate because it’s published by lawyers.
The Council often takes a strong stance against laws being penned that could adversely affect Australians’ rights and liberties under the rule of law. For that reason, it’s good to watch the submissions page, where the Council publishes all its submissions (arguments to government about why or why not a law should be passed or amended) to Parliament on certain laws. The Council is also quite active on twitter (@thelawcouncil). Follow and stay informed about potential threats to the rule of law in Australia and overseas.
4. The Public Interest Advocacy Centre
The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) is a non-profit legal centre based in Sydney, which acts as a watchdog guarding civil liberties and rights in Australia.
PIAC has been a strong voice for equal legal treatment of Indigenous people, homeless people, consumers in relation to energy and water issues and disabled people. In 2013, the centre had a major win in a disability discrimination case that led to RailCorp introducing “next stop” announcements so blind people could use the train services without assistance.
The centre is always watching out for threats to the rule of law in Australia and particularly NSW. Check out its current projects, including helping vulnerable people understand their rights in relation to misuse of police powers and protecting equality in circumstances of discrimination.
5. The Conversation
If you haven’t already been reading The Conversation, bookmark it and add it to your homepage. This news site is a fantastic independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community.
The site’s scrupulous fact-checking system and commitment to academic rigour ensures you won’t come across any tabloid gossip – just high-quality journalism. The site even has a rule of law aim, to provide access to “independent, high-quality, authenticated, explanatory journalism [which] underpins a functioning democracy”.
Relevantly, the search function can collate all articles on the site about the rule of law. It includes articles on corruption and rule of law situations around the world, and is updated regularly with additions from expert authors.