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Royle, Richard --- "Editorial: Timely advice in a brave new world" [2021] PrecedentAULA 13; (2021) 163 Precedent 2


By Richard Royle

In 2020, international passenger demand fell 75.6 per cent in comparison to 2019.[1] In the first five months of the year, international tourist arrivals halved and $320 billion was lost in exports from tourism.[2] The cruise industry, which had predicted some 32 million passengers at the start of 2020,[3] went from being the fastest growing sector of tourism to coming to an almost complete standstill.

While the word ‘travel’ is now seemingly foreign amidst international travel restrictions and border closures, developments in international torts and travel law have not halted. Instead, the field faces more complex challenges than ever – COVID-19 has transformed the legal landscape, requiring us to adjust to its dynamic and pervasive effects on torts and travel law.

In this issue of Precedent, there are a myriad of articles which engage with the uncertainty of our time, seeking to respond to the questions that the industry faces.

Victoria Roy explores a pertinent theme which I am sure many can sympathise with: compensation for disappointment following breach of holiday contracts. This may be particularly relevant as we continue to experience borders reopening and closing in response to COVID-19 outbreaks, causing disruption to travel plans.

Sara Kaurin’s article considers the missed opportunity to improve legal protections for Australian cruise passengers in light of the Government’s decision not to accede to the Athens Convention. Sara evaluates this decision against the background of COVID-19, considering the legal and economic implications of the Convention on Australian cruise carriers.

Tom Goudkamp OAM guides the reader through a guidebook-like analysis of damages for pain and suffering across different jurisdictions, paying close attention to Australia in comparison with the UK and Europe. This is a useful reference for those facing unfamiliar jurisdictions.

COVID-19 poses significant challenges not only for litigation, but also for the legal profession itself. Romaine Abraham’s column advocates for a reconsideration of legal fees and cost disclosure obligations in light of new conditions such as working from home and disruptions to the court system.

This edition also includes valuable insights into aviation litigation. Christopher Barry QC provides useful illustrations of the framework around this field, and discusses the interplay of the Montreal Convention within the Australian legal framework.

Joseph Wheeler, in his own discussion of COVID-19 aviation litigation, queries the liability of airlines for ‘accidents’ as defined by the Montreal Convention, posing interesting questions such as whether airlines could be held liable for COVID-19 transmission.

Although COVID-19 has dominated the discourse of the past year, this edition considers several other legal issues which have been aggravated by the pandemic and will persist as emerging issues in an ever-changing globalised world.

Peter Carter and Richard Morgan’s article on medical support in offshore litigation examines the provision of medical treatment in foreign jurisdictions. Their analysis explores the legal protections that Australian travellers have when encountering medical issues overseas, and the application of legal frameworks with respect to compensation.

David Chitty’s discussion of unmanned aerial vehicles explores a territory largely unchartered and provides insights and awareness on the laws that apply to drones both in Australia and abroad.

Louis Baigent and Sarah Vallance address the intersection of medical negligence and travel in their article on medical tourism, and illustrate how the legal profession must await relevant decisions in superior courts of Australia to fully understand the new medical tourism industry’s legal obstacles and uncertainties.

This edition of Precedent provides fascinating insight into the dynamism of the COVID-19 world as it intersects with international torts and travel law. The articles present compelling predictions for an unpredictable and unprecedented time. While we may be limited in our ability to travel, these articles may be best enjoyed as holiday reading. We would, of course, prefer to be on an overseas vacation, but this edition helps to fill the gap.

Richard Royle was admitted to the UK Bar in 1983 and has been practising in NSW since 1985. He specialises in tort-related matters, including international torts. EMAIL

[1] International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), Effects of Novel Coronavirus (COVID‐19) on Civil Aviation: Economic Impact Analysis (Presentation, 10 February 2021).

[2] United Nations, ‘COVID-19 Tourism Sector Collapse Requires Green, Equitable Rebuilding, Secretary-General Says at Policy Brief Launch’ (Press Release SG/SM/20218, 25 August 2020).

[3] Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), 2021 State of the Cruise Industry Outlook Report (Presentation, 22 December 2020).

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