Queensland Law Society

Parliamentary wrap-up - August

The Queensland Government received a notable legislative defeat in last week’s parliamentary sitting. However, long-awaited and much lauded legislation arrived to deal with limitation issues in child sex abuse claims and class actions for the Queensland state courts.

Attracting some of the greatest attention was the Vegetation Management (Reinstatement) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016. Announced by the Government as fulfilment of an election commitment, the Bill met concern from the Queensland Law Society about an offence provision which reversed the onus of proof and denied the defence of mistake of fact, as well as some mild retrospective operation. The parliamentary Agriculture and Environment Committee made a bipartisan recommendation to remove the reverse onus of proof in its report on the Bill following a submission from the Society and president Bill Potts’ appearance at the public hearing.

Despite the bipartisan view of the committee and renewed calls from QLS, the Government chose not to abandon the reversal of the onus of proof and put the unamended Bill to the House. Queensland Law Society was mentioned 30 times in Hansard in the debate on the Bill and ultimately the Bill failed in its second reading due to a lack of support from key crossbench members.

This sitting also saw significant attention directed at the issue of limitations in child sex abuse claims. The Opposition had announced a policy position on the issue which was supported by the QLS. The Government responded with its own announcement, which was also supported by the QLS.

Subsequently the Premier introduced the Limitation of Actions (Institutional Child Sexual Abuse) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 to Parliament on 16 August. The Bill was also supported by QLS president Bill Potts. On 18 August, Member for Cairns Rob Pyne MP introduced his own competing private member’s Bill, the Limitation of Actions and Other Legislation (Child Abuse Civil Proceedings) Amendment Bill 2016. Both Bills have been referred to the parliamentary Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee for review.

QLS president Bill Potts also welcomed the Government’s Limitation of Actions (Institutional Child Sexual Abuse) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 as the reform package included provisions facilitating class actions in Queensland state courts.

The Counter-Terrorism and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016, which had been welcomed by president Potts, was passed without amendment. In addition, the Budget Appropriation Bills were passed during the session.

The Government introduced three other Bills into the House during the session:

During the session the Member for Cairns, Rob Pyne MP, also introduced the Health (Abortion Law Reform) Amendment Bill 2016 as a private member’s Bill. This followed his earlier private member’s Bill on similar subject matter in the Abortion Law Reform (Woman’s Right to Choose) Amendment Bill 2016 and the broadened inquiry into the subject by the Health, Communities, Disability Services and Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Committee, to report by 26 August 2016.

See this week’s Legislation Update.