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April 2013

As well as semester-length exchange opportunities, such as those described by Ganesh Vaheisvaran (presently at Yonsei University in Korea), Sydney Law School has already started to meet the challenge of 'Australia in the Asian Century' by developing short-term offshore courses in various Asian countries.

Jenny Han, a final-year LLB student with a BA (Hons) in Japanese Studies, first reports below on two experiences in Japan. The Kyoto/Tokyo Seminars in Japanese Law are offered for credit to LLB/JD and Masters students over 10 days every February, to Japanese, Australian and other international students. Participation in the INC negotiation and arbitration competition in Tokyo usually attracts course credit (within the 'International Moot' LLB/JD unit), although Sydney Law School is moving towards fielding a team every two years (recommencing in the December 2015 moot). We are very grateful for financial supporters of these opportunities for closer engagement with Japan, especially Mr Akira Kawamura (LLM 1979, former President of the International Bar Association) and Mitsui Matsushima Australia Pty Ltd.

Glenn Kembrey then adds some remarks on his student exchange at Kobe University. He enjoyed it so much that he extended his stay beyond one semester (needed to complete his USydney LLB degree), studying in Kobe for another semester to hone his skills in comparative law.


The Australian government is slowly following up on the agenda set out in last year's 'Australia in the Asian Century' White Paper. An Implementation Plan has now been announced, along with an expanded Strategic Advisory Board, and public Submissions are sought on follow-up individual country strategies (by 31 May) for Japan, China, Indonesia, India and South Korea.

Of particular interest for Australian universities and their students, on 6 April the first round of applications opened for 'AsiaBound' study - with a deadline of 20 May 2013. The government had already announced on 31 October 2012, albeit in broad terms, the $37 million AsiaBound Grants Program:

AsiaBound provides funding in the form of $2000 or $5000 grants for around 3600 Australian students each year to participate in a study experience in Asia. Students are able to undertake short-term mobility for a variety of experiences including practicums, clinical placements, research trips or volunteer projects for up to 6 months. Students are also able to undertake semester based experiences for one or two semesters. In addition to study grants, AsiaBound offers grants of $1000 for preparatory Asian language study that can be undertaken prior to or concurrently with an approved mobility project.

Program Aims:
Increase the overall number of Australian students with a first-hand study experience of Asia through funding for short-term study and language grants as well as increased OS-HELP loans
Encourage more students to become Asia-literate by supporting institutions to diversify their mobility offerings in Asia
Enhance the skills and expertise of Australians through access to a variety of study opportunities in Asia
Support increased Asian language competency of Australian students together with mobility experiences
Increase collaboration and partnerships between Australian and Asian higher education and vocational institutions.

Hopefully this program will further encourage Sydney Law School student engagement with the fascinating world of law in Asia. Already they enjoy opportunities for short-term offshore courses in Japan (every February), China, Malaysia/Indonesia and Nepal. Our law students also have also competed successfully since 2005, as part of 'Team Australia' with ANU students, in the Intercollegiate Negotiation and Arbitration competition (INC) held in Tokyo each December. There is also growing interest in semester-length offshore exchanges to leading law schools in Asia, thanks to efforts to expand university- and faculty-level student exchange agreements (traditionally focused more on Europe and North America) as well as the growing numbers of law courses offered in English by partner institutions in the region. The government's new 'AsiaBound' funding should further increase the attractiveness of these opportunities.

Already, our law students are taking the plunge. An example is Ganesh Vaheisvaran, who mooted at the INC in Tokyo (in the English-language division in 2011, and in the Japanese-language division last year). He is now spending a semester at Yonsei University in Seoul, thanks to a university-level student exchange agreement reinforced by a new faculty-level MOU. As you can read from the report below, Ganesh is obviously enjoying his Korean law and language studies - as well as some interesting extra-curricular activities!


Written by Joel Rheuben (LLM candidate UTokyo, LLB/BA (Hons) Syd, Solicitor (NSW))

In spite of Japan’s perpetual combination of economic, diplomatic and demographic challenges – not to mention the fact that the current House of Representatives faces potential invalidation by the Supreme Court – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe continues to focus an inordinate amount of political energy on his pet project of constitutional "revision". Together with the hard-right alliance Nippon Ishin no Kai, Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has determined to attack first and foremost Article 96 of the Constitution, which sets out the mechanism by which the document can be amended.

Currently, that provision requires a two-thirds majority vote of each house of the Diet to initiate a popular referendum in order to effect constitutional change. Abe and others argue that the two-thirds majority requirement makes it too hard to put constitutional amendments to a vote. The LDP/Nippon Ishin plan would lower the threshold for a referendum to a simple majority in each house. Yet Australia has a similar threshold - without having resulted in many constitutional amendments, in practice.


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Japanese Law in Asia-Pacific Socio-Economic Context