Graduate Diploma in Asian Law
- CRICOS Code: 075335A
What will I study?
Students must complete four subjects from the prescribed list.
Students who do not have a law degree from a common law jurisdiction or any prior legal studies are also expected to complete the two-day preliminary subject Australian Legal Process and Legal Institutions.
Subject timing and format
The Melbourne Law Masters program has been designed around the busy schedules of working professionals. Subjects are offered from February to December each year.
Most subjects are taught intensively, giving you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the subject content. Intensive subjects are typically taught over five days, either from Monday–Friday or Wednesday–Tuesday, excluding the weekend. This intensive format enables students from interstate or overseas to fly to Melbourne to attend class. Semester-length subjects are generally taught for two hours in the evening each week during the semester.
Subjects are taught in an interactive seminar style and class sizes normally range from 20 to 30 students.
As a student, you will need to enrol in at least one subject per semester and will have a maximum of two years to complete the course, including any leave of absence.
Sample course plan
View some sample course plans to help you select subjects that will meet the requirements for this diploma.
Sample course plan - 6 months full time
Sample course plan - 1 year part time
Explore this course
Explore the subjects you could choose as part of this diploma.
- Commercial Law in Asia12.5
Commercial Law in Asia
The emergence of Asia as an economic powerhouse is driving enormous interest in doing business in the region. This subject provides students with an opportunity to examine commercial law in an Asian context. Although parallels can be drawn between Asian jurisdictions in terms of their economic and legal development, their commercial law systems are too diverse to be treated uniformly. Instead, the focus is on analysing key legal aspects of doing business in Asia – including contracts, business entities, international trade, competition law, dispute resolution and the role of lawyers – by reference to systems and case studies in various Asian jurisdictions. Singapore and Australia will be used as reference jurisdictions. The lecturer previously worked as a lawyer and academic in Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore and has written extensively on specific Asian business law topics.
Principal topics include:
- Introduction to economic, political and cultural context of Asian laws
- Commercial contracts
- Business entities
- Foreign investment
- Overview of World Trade Organization and international trade regulation
- Competition law
- Overview of finance and capital markets
- Courts and dispute resolution in Asia
- The role and regulation of lawyers.
- Constitutionalism after Empire12.5
Constitutionalism after Empire
This subject seeks to provide an overview of the theory and practice of constitutionalism in four countries in South and South East Asia: India, Indonesia, Singapore and Sri Lanka. Two of these are among the largest, most pluralistic nations in the world, while the remaining two are small island states. All four nations experienced long periods of colonial rule, which continues to have a decisive impact on their post-colonial legal and constitutional orders. The experience of colonialism contrasts quite starkly from those nations which were settler colonies, and this is an important focus of the course. In each of these nations, discussions about constitutionalism have become enmeshed within larger societal debates about economic development, cultural values, and human rights. The subject instructor has first-hand experience of research and teaching constitutional law in two of the four jurisdictions.
Principal topics include:
- Brief overview of the field of comparative constitutionalism, and methodological approaches to the discipline
- A broad introduction to the four jurisdictions, covering national histories, and their economic, social and political dimensions
- A focus on the colonial experience in the four jurisdictions and the nature of the colonial economy, and its politics
- The process of decolonization and the constitutional politics that was engendered as a result
- An examination of the post-colonial Constitutions adopted in these countries, with an emphasis on rights provisions
- Broad overview of post-colonial trajectories of the four jurisdictions, and their assessments by scholars
- The policies of economic development that were followed and the impact on constitutional politics
- Debates about culture, human rights and ‘Asian Values’.
- Construction Law and Projects in Asia12.5
Construction Law and Projects in Asia
This subject provides a detailed overview of construction law, projects and practice in five representative Asian jurisdictions: the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, Hong Kong SAR, Singapore and South Korea. Through detailed explanation, analysis and case studies, students will gain an integrated and advanced understanding of the key features of each jurisdiction, both in isolation and in a comparative context. Students will develop their capacity to operate and advise in and across these jurisdictions as well as deriving lessons for application in their home jurisdiction.
Dr Arthur McInnis is the principal subject lecturer. He is the former head of the Construction Practice Group at Clifford Chance in Hong Kong. He has published extensively and lectured widely on construction topics throughout Asia
The subject provides a detailed introduction to construction law, projects and practice in five Asian jurisdictions, with reference to:
- The size and importance of opportunities and trends in their construction sectors
- Their key legal and regulatory frameworks, tender practices and project management norms
- The principal standard forms of contract in use
- Recent build-own-transfer, build-lease-transfer and design-build-finance-operate projects, and planned public-private partnerships in economic and social infrastructure
- Their resource management, financing, innovation and competitiveness on a comparative basis in the development of their construction sectors in the wider Australasian building and projects market
- Detailed case studies on construction, currently planned to include: the Beijing Metro No 4 Line and Mass Transit Railway (MTR) international projects; planning, financing, construction and appraisal of the Anhwa school project in Korea; recent NEC-procured pilot projects in Hong Kong; tendering, construction, operation and issues surrounding the Taiwan High Speed Rail project; and tendering, financing, construction and operation of the Singapore Sports Hub.
- Digital Trade12.5
International trade is being transformed by the globalisation of the internet and the ability to move data across borders. Small businesses and firms in developing countries are using internet platforms such as eBay and Alibaba to engage in international trade. Software, music and books that used to be traded physically are now being transmitted digitally across borders; lawyers, consultants and other professional services are using the internet to reach new markets. Data analytics and cloud computing have become essential tools for firms in domestic and international markets.
This subject will examine the impact of the internet and global data flows on international trade. Students will learn about the varied and innovative ways that the internet and data enable international economic activity. Students will look at how government regulation in areas such as privacy and national security affects digital trade and will examine the balance between achieving these goals and maximising opportunities for trade, growth and jobs. Students will learn about the extent to which international trade rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and free trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement support an open internet and global data flows; will identify gaps in law and practice; and will analyse where new global norms and rules are needed. Special topics covered may include: the opportunities of digital trade for developing countries and small and medium enterprises (SMEs); challenges posed by the 'Internet of Things' and privacy regulation; and digital trade and national security.
Joshua P Meltzer is a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC and adjunct professor at the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies where he teaches international trade law. He is a leading scholar on digital trade issues, consults governments, the World Bank and the World Economic Forum and was appointed an expert witness in digital trade and privacy litigation.
Principal topics include:
- Overview of the globalisation of the internet including global trends in internet access and use
- The economics of the internet - students will learn how internet access and global data flows are improving productivity, enabling innovation and expanding opportunities for global engagement
- What is the impact of the internet and data flows on international trade? This will include the role of digital platforms and the increasing importance of digital services trade
- What are the barriers to digital trade, who is erecting them and why? Students will learn about the regulatory challenges to digital trade in areas of consumer protection, financial and privacy laws and the different approaches being taken in the European Union, the United States and Australia, and consider how to achieve domestic regulatory goals while maximising digital trade
- Applying international trade law to digital trade issues and identifying the legal gaps - students will analyse where existing international trade rules apply to digital trade issues. This will include analysis of WTO agreements and cases as well as new trade rules in free trade agreements. Gaps in trade law will be identified and students will consider whether new trade rules and norms are needed and where they can be negotiated.
- Energy and Resources Law in China12.5
Energy and Resources Law in China
This subject examines the legal framework governing natural resources and renewable energy in China, with particular focus on mineral deposits, living organisms, and climate resources (i.e., wind, sunlight and atmospheric moisture). The objective is to provide students with a practical understanding of this important area of economic regulation, and an appreciation of the broader normative considerations (i.e., efficiency and redistribution) that are applicable to similar issues elsewhere. This subject draws from the lecturer’s extensive academic scholarship on resources law, regulatory theory, and Chinese legal system.
Principal topics include:
- The normative theoretical framework for assessing resources law, in particular the controversies and ambiguities surrounding the conceptions of economic efficiency and redistributive fairness
- The constitutional framework in China governing natural resources, in particular provisions on property rights, ownership/allocation of natural resources, and environment protection.
- The core legislation/regulation governing natural resources and renewable energy in China with emphasis on provisions governing allocation, extraction/exploitation, and transfer
- The social, economic and political factors shaping the respective approaches towards natural resources management
- The strengths and weakness of the regulatory regime and general implications for natural resources management
- International Law and Development12.5
International Law and Development
The concept of development has been crucial to structuring international legal relations from the end of World War II to the present day. During that time, international law and institutions have taken on ‘development’ as a primary project. In both the public and economic domains, the vast majority of international institutions engage with the development project in some shape or form. This subject invites students to think about the nature and importance of development and its relation to international law. The history of development in relation to imperialism, decolonisation, the Cold War and globalisation means that this set of relations is complex and dynamic. Understanding it is crucial to understanding the place of international law, and the work development does in the contemporary world.
Principal topics include:
- Law and development as a field
- The ‘development’ concept and its precursors
- The relationship between the concepts of ‘law’ and ‘development’
- The institutionalisation of development
- Development, imperialism, decolonisation and the nation state
- Permanent sovereignty over natural resources and the new international economic order
- Debt crises and development(s) at the Bretton Wood institutions
- Trade and development
- Globalisation, governance and the rule of law
- Sustainability, democracy and human rights
- Resistance, alternatives and post-development
- The future: development and security.
- Investment Deals and Disputes in Asia12.5
Investment Deals and Disputes in Asia
In this subject, students will act as lawyers advising an international investor in a hypothetical investment project in a developing Asian jurisdiction (based on real life experience of the subject coordinator). Students must identify the legal risks and potential disputes in this developing environment and advise ways to mitigate such risks and avoid or resolve disputes. Students will study relevant laws, draft contractual documents, analyse legal issues, give advice, negotiate with the local government, project finance lenders and other parties and bring the deal to closure. Students are also involved in a dispute scenario arising out of the transaction. After the subject, students are expected to have an overview of the key risks and potential disputes in investment deals in developing Asian systems and ways to mitigate such risks through negotiation and documentation. Students can also research more deeply into particular legal issues such as expropriation, change in law, currency conversion or performance by state-owned companies and dispute resolution. Throughout the subject, students will study different areas of law such as investment, administrative, conflict of laws and international dispute resolution.
Principal topics include:
- General overview of risks and potential disputes for investors
- Risks of expropriation
- Risks of illegality
- Performance by state-owned enterprises
- Currency conversion
- Permits and regulatory approvals
- Choice of law, dispute resolution and the arbitration process
- Negotiating with local counterparties and international project finance lenders
- Resolving disputes and closing the deal.
- Islamic Law and Politics in Asia12.5
Islamic Law and Politics in Asia
Islam does not, in theory, recognise a distinction between religion and law because for Muslims both are derived from their god‘s revealed message. The result is the inevitable tension between Islamic beliefs and the modern (secular) nation state that lies at the heart of the politics of Islam in South-East Asia. It has become the subject of major global controversies and conflicts in recent decades, as religious and political leaders compete with, and – in most cases – accommodate, each other. This tension, and the legal, political and social controversies that result from it, are the focus of this subject, which is based on selected comparative case studies of efforts to achieve legal Islamisation from a range of countries in Australia’s region. Teaching is led by a scholar who has conducted extensive fieldwork across South-East Asia and worked closely with Islamic legal institutions in the region. He is supported by guest lecturers specialising on South-East Asia, who will bring their own perspectives to class discussions.
This subject examines the relationship between the modern nation state and Islam in Asia, focusing on the 240 million Muslims in Australia’s South-East Asian neighbourhood.
Principal topics include:
- How the original Arabic-derived legal thought has been adapted in new Asian homelands
- The essential position of Islamic legal traditions as an alternative authority to the contemporary nation state
- Current political and religious controversies arising in South-East Asia. These will be selected from a range that may include:
- Islamic legal codes and laws for Muslims
- The Qadi, Islamic judicial traditions and courts for Muslims
- Islamic criminal punishment
- Interest-free banking, ‘Islamic economics’ and commercial law
- Islamic approaches to the status of women (fiqh Al-Nisa)
- Zakat and other forms of philanthropy
- Education and the role of madrasa and pesantren
- The introduction of revivalist Islamic codes
- Islamic radicalism and terrorist groups in South-East Asia, including Darul Islam, Jemaah Islamiyah and Al Qaeda.
- National Human Rights Institutions12.5
National Human Rights Institutions
National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) provide a bridge between governments and civil society and are recognised within the United Nations (UN) system for their credible role in monitoring and advocating for human rights compliance within their country. A distinguishing feature of a NHRI is that, in order to meet the UN’s Paris Principles, it must be genuinely independent of the government that created it and that appointed its president and commissioners. Herein lies an inevitable tension. The obligation of the NHRI to monitor compliance with human rights may fail to meet the policy and political priorities of either or both the government and civil society. The independence of NHRIs is vital to ensuring evidence-based, legally accurate and objective monitoring of human rights compliance. That independence is however under constant threat. The United Nations Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders plays a significant role in ensuring that states are held accountable for protecting the independence of their NHRI. So too, civil society can provide vital community support to ensure respect for NHRIs.
This subject examines the role of the 118 or so NHRIs throughout the world and argues for their strengthening and independence of government and for their voice within the UN human rights system.
Principal topics include:
- The international standards governing National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs)
- The role of NHRIs in promoting and protecting human rights, from theory to practice; effective strategies; prevention and early intervention
- International monitoring mechanisms and their relationship to NHRIs; the effect of globalisation
- The mandates, functions and powers of NHRIs, with specific attention to those in Australia, Fiji, India, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand, and references to those in Afghanistan, Jordan and Palestine
- The relationship between NHRIs and government, parliament, the judiciary, other independent institutions, NGOs and civil society
- International and regional cooperation among NHRIs.