Queensland Law Society

QLS Policy Committee Chair Breakfast 2017

Thursday 5 October, Law Society House

President's address

Introduction

Good morning.

In keeping with our reconciliation commitment it is culturally appropriate and important to acknowledge the First Nations people as the original inhabitants of the land on which this ceremony is taking place here in Meanjin, and recognise the remarkable country north and south of the winding Brisbane River, home of the Turrbul and Jagera nations. Following cultural protocol, we pay our deep respects to all Elders past and present as well as our emerging leaders of tomorrow, and thank them for their wisdom and guidance.

“The power of one, if fearless and focused, is formidable, but the power of many working together is better.” Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (former president of the Philippines)

We are now in the final quarter of the year – and what a year it has been!

The amazing achievements that you have been integral to with your work on committees is appreciated and hopefully demonstrably so.

Our 25 policy committees – made up of 355 members – and our working groups are dedicated to furthering good law in Queensland.

In the last financial year, our policy committee and working group members attended 178 meetings, and had 91 mentions in Hansard.

Our committees had an extremely active financial year with 146 submissions, a 41% increase from the previous year. I was proud to oversee and sign off on these submissions, as well as make submissions at numerous Parliamentary hearings in collaboration with subject-matter experts.

Our policy committees represent a foundational aspect of our organisation, with our members coming from many areas of the profession, along with relevant guests. I often say – with tongue in cheek – that QLS is the upper house of Queensland as we are the check and balance as well as the reasoned voice on developing law in the State.

This year, our committees contributed their expertise to 132 articles and publications, and had 176 successes in legislation, policy and government procedures.

You are leaders. You are visionaries. You are essential.

You assist us in fulfilling our purpose of being the profession’s trusted advisor through providing quality advice, advocacy, learning and professional development for our members.

Your expertise and experience make a vital contribution to the development of policy and legislation in both state and federal jurisdictions, as well as contributing to ongoing Parliamentary Inquiries.

I would like to thank you on behalf of the Society for the tireless work and dedication you show us each year. The countless hours spent in guiding the Society’s policy direction are not in vain.

I am sure I have the support of the entire profession in applauding your contribution and hard work to good law in Queensland.

The fact that you – our committee chairs and deputy chairs – always manage to rally your hard-working volunteers to deliver succinct, expert responses within frequently impossible deadlines is a credit to your dedication and professionalism, and is much appreciated by the Society as a whole and by me personally.

Achievements 2017

This year has been a whirlwind of activity so far, with the Society having many successes across multiple areas.

For the community

One key area we have been working in for the benefit of our community is elder abuse awareness.

On June 15 we recognised World Elder Abuse Awareness Day with the launch of a joint campaign with GPs in Queensland.

Through this campaign, we hope to raise awareness of elder abuse and give a language to those suffering or witnessing these acts; increase reporting figures; and encourage the Government to fund assistance programs for elder abuse sufferers.

Some of our other highlights include the reinstatement of funding for community legal centres by the Federal Attorney-General.

QLS has been relentless in our lobbying for a reversal of proposed cuts and I hope that this decision is an indication for future discussions on legal funding and resources for our justice system and access to justice initiatives.

Advocacy

In regard to access to justice, we released our Access to Justice Scorecard 2016 report after surveying our profession and have recently wrapped up the 2017 survey.

Also in the government sphere, we have seen more appointments to Queensland courts this year so far.

This included appointments to the Magistrates Courts, District Court, Supreme Court, a new Senior Judge Administrator, Federal Administrative Appeals Tribunal president, a new Land Court President and new Land Court member and a new Court of Appeal President.

These appointments have largely been back-filling roles, and we look forward to working with the government to appoint further resources to our courts.

Our judges, magistrates and tribunal members are at the coalface of our profession, and I will continue to lobby for further resources to assist them in undertaking this very difficult and busy job.

The Society has also welcomed State Budget funding on justice initiatives, including the return of the Drug Courts, the permanency of Southport’s Domestic Violence Specialist Court and two new specialist courts to roll out in Townsville and Beenleigh. 

Policy

You have all been extremely busy in the legislative space, with many successes in key legislation.

This work has seen us rather successful, and I draw on the words on Stephen King when he said that “amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

And go to work you have.

Some of the key pieces of legislation you have contributed to include:

  • Moves to expunge historical gay convictions
  • Launch of the Search Warrant Guidelines in collaboration with the Queensland Police Service
  • Highlighting issues with the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Bill 2017
  • Participation in the Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis Stakeholder Reference Group. We’ve seen success in making the decision to accept or reject an application for a medical assessment, reviewable and requiring the insurer to pay for the worker’s travel expenses to this assessment.
  • Contributions to the ongoing property law review project, including proposed body corporate law reform
  • The Farm Business Debt Mediation Bill
  • The introduction of a class action regime in Queensland
  • Updates to the REIQ contracts in conjunction with REIQ following amendments to the Federal Government’s foreign resident CGT withholding framework
  • QLS and REIQ have also released the new jointly endorsed Commercial Tenancy Agreement
  • The State Penalties Enforcement Amendment Bill
  • The Criminal Law Amendment Bill
  • The Police Powers and Responsibilities (Commonwealth Games) Amendment Bill
  • Involvement in the civil litigation reforms arising out of the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse.
  • Participation in the working group which produced the Guideline under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 for issuing “Chain of Responsibility” environmental protection orders
  • Involvement in legislative changes to move 17 year olds from the adult justice system back into the youth justice system.
  • Work on child protection reforms.
  • Contribution to the Australian Consumer Law review
  • The Federal Government’s plan to extend the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Funding compliance regime to solicitors
  • The Strong and Sustainable Resource Communities Bill
  • The Land and Other Legislation Amendment Act
  • The compulsory third-party insurance scheme review
  • Tow truck industry reforms
  • We have also been involved in the review of court practice and procedure, including the review of practice directions.

The Society has also been approached for our committee’s expertise on a range of topics.

Another item which I have been agitating for is additional Commonwealth Family and Federal Court judicial resources to address the nasty delays.

QLS also released our marriage equality policy position in August, focusing on the issue as a matter of law and recognising the deficiencies in the current legislation. 

Closing

We have also seen some great work in the equity and diversity field, with our recent LawLink student event and our annual Equity and Diversity Awards. This year we also awarded the President’s Equity Advocacy Award.

We are proud of our achievements to date, and we have much more to do.

Nevertheless, it is important that the legal professions pauses from time to time to take stock of our valuable contribution to the fundamental fabric of our society – the rule of law.