Launch of the Sydney Post-graduate Studies Programme 1998-1999

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					 Launch of the Sydney Post-graduate Studies Programme 1998-1999
                 University of Sydney Law School
                         24 October 1997

On Justice Meagher’s door appear two witch doctors in earnest conversation, in full
regalia. One leans forward to the other and says: Women priests — the end of civilisation
as we know it?”


Thirty-five years ago Ross Parsons threatened the end of post-graduate scholarship as
we knew it. He dared to introduce a Master of Laws by course work — with a shorter
scholarly paper at the end rather than a thesis; I should add that Ross personally cajoled
many of us to finish it, when our energies flagged. In those days your Dean Ros Atherton
would have been burnt at the stake for suggesting: “for those who are wary of the often
solitary pursuit of the PhD, but are interested in advanced legal studies with a collegial
approach, the SJD is worthy of serious consideration.”


However, Ross Parsons was not deterred. He came at a time of tentative rapprochement
between practitioners and the Sydney Law School. His continuing legal education
programme was decisive in converting that to a real intellectual symbiosis between Law
School and the profession. He did not consider it the end of academic civilisation as we
knew it to introduce his then radical LLM programme. This was because he maintained a
proper gradation between the austere pinnacle of SJD and his new course work Master of
Laws, and insisted upon a rigorous academic standard for it.


Thirty-five years later, we are now offered, to quote Ros again, “a rich smorgasbord of
opportunities for graduate studies in law and related disciplines”. Again there is a careful
gradation of Diploma, Masters Degree and the two Doctorates. And the bridge it offers
between the practising profession and a great law school is reaffirmed by the breadth and
depth of that programme, unsurpassed in this country.


That Master’s programme achieved much. Yet but for Professor Parsons followed by
Justice Hill, Tom Magney and now Richard Vann, and an able teaching staff, taxation
would still be the exclusive preserve of the accountants. The taxation programmes were
the single most significant factor in educating a new generation of solicitors, barristers
and, dare I say it, judges, in the arcane mysteries of taxation. That the sponsors of the
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course include the first hybrid law and accounting firm, Greenwoods & Freehills, is
symptomatic of the breaking down of barriers.


When I think of the thirty odd years since Ross Parsons first taught me tax, with that
gently probing dialectic, I am irresistibly taken back to our class. It included the then
disbarred barrister, Peter Clyne. I can still recall that look of pain, at odds with Ross’s
lively intellectual curiosity, when Peter Clyne would suggest some outrageous, ingenious
tax manoeuvre. But how must Ross have felt when he later read these lines from Peter
Clyne’s Adventures in Tax Avoidance (with 120 Practical Tax Hints)?


            “I would like to take this opportunity of acknowledging my indebtedness to
              Professor Parsons and Mr G Keneally of the Sydney University Law
              School, who led me by the hand into this field and let me loose there. To
              save them the embarrassment of being visited with tar and feathers and
              horse-whips, I will leave things on the basis that if this book contains any
              good ideas, many of them were inspired by Professor Parsons and by
              Mr Keneally. But the dismal failures are entirely my own.”


Alongside Ross Parsons was Graham Hill’s course in stamp and death duties; Justice Hill,
as he now is and in our audience to-day, completed over thirty years of teaching last year
in the Master of Laws programme. Surely a cause for celebration! Nor should we forget
the enormous contribution of Professor Robert Austin, who straddles his academic and
professional interests to the mutual advantage of both.


From those solo instruments, there is now the symphonic richness of an enormous range
of courses, catering for most personal and vocational interests.


Let me transport you now to this morning. Sitting across my table, over morning tea, was
Professor Hugh Corder from Cape Town University, a leading administrative lawyer. He
describes how he has been crucially influenced by the Australian experience in
administrative law, the best in the British Commonwealth. This as a model for the new
South Africa, with its bitter memories of executive repression. He expressed his immense
debt to that expertise and in particular from his contact with Professor Margaret Allars of
our Law School. Yet he too received a modest contribution as a Parson’s visitor in 1991
bringing him from Adelaide to Sydney for the first time and then again this year. What
better illustration of how Sydney Law School has become a crucible of ideas, its radiating
network influencing both scholarship and policy. And all this, battling a cruelly shrunken
budget and grossly inadequate academic salaries.



Launch of the Sydney Post-graduate Studies Programme 1998-1999: University of Sydney Law School: 24 October 1997
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To Professor Alice Tay we owe a most important linkage to our Region. She, ably assisted
by Conita Leung, single-handedly set up the Centre for Asian and Pacific Law
(“CAPLUS”). Its influence encompasses last year’s winter school in Shanghai at which
over thirty students from Sydney Law School participated, learning about Chinese Laws
and its legal system. Sydney’s Winter School in the planning next year will see 80
students from the Region. CAPLUS contacts and network radiate throughout Asia,
reaching Vietnam, Indonesia and Korea.


Those Asian visitors whom Professor Tay have invited here join the visiting Parsons’
Scholars whose funding stems from Ross’s unselfish frugality. He, with Jenny Litman’s
help, not only provided materials for the various courses but also ran a highly successful
series of Thursday evening lectures. These are continued still with leading jurists and
scholars, local and overseas. The proceeds from these lectures were ploughed back
meticulously into the Parsons’ fund. Most recently we have welcomed Professor Roy
Goode from Oxford, one of the very first of the Parsons’ visitors.


I return to a theme that takes us back to the beginnings of this programme. There is no
longer that gulf between practising profession and academia. Nonetheless the linkages
cannot be taken for granted. There is a natural symbiosis between the manufacture of
legal constructs and argument, an enterprise shared between academia, barristers and
solicitors, for its wholesale application in the courts and ultimately its retailing in daily
commerce. But that symbiosis requires continued painstaking nourishment, if its flow is to
continue unimpeded. Complacency, triumphalism or an inward looking Law School, will
quickly destroy it. We should cherish our craft and our professionalism whose cultivation
is the essence of a continuing legal education. These are, after all, the qualities which
differentiate us and make us useful to the community.


G F K Santow
24 October 1997




Launch of the Sydney Post-graduate Studies Programme 1998-1999: University of Sydney Law School: 24 October 1997

				
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