Queensland Law Society

President’s update

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It was an honour to attend the High Court of Australia on Monday for the swearing-in of Chief Justice Susan Kiefel.

To see a Queensland practitioner – and the first female – elevated to our highest judicial office is something I will always remember.

It was a privilege to congratulate her Honour – along with Queensland resident Justice James Edelman, who was also sworn in – on behalf of Queensland solicitors.

Chief Justice Kiefel delivered a memorable address, and I would like to pass on a brief quote:

“The appointment of more women to this court recognises that there are now women who have the necessary legal ability and experience as well as the personal qualities to be a justice of this court,” she said. “There seems no reason to think that that situation will not be maintained in the future. It may well improve.”

Her words, and her career, are an inspiration to all practitioners.

Last week I asked for your support in addressing the federal anti-money laundering/counter-terrorism financing (AML/CTF) proposals that would impose unprecedented obligations on us to report on our clients’ activities.

Based on the data you have provided, we have finalised our submission to the Law Council of Australia identifying the extraordinary costs involved in implementing this regime.

For even the smallest firms it is in the order of $120,000, and for large law firms it will cost around $750,000 a year to administer. These regulatory costs will dramatically impact on our clients, and importantly, the reporting scheme strikes at the sanctity of the solicitor-client relationship.

I have also attended the first meeting of the Small Business Better Regulation Taskforce, an initiative which aims to improve regulation in Queensland for small business. The legal sector is a part of our small business community contributing some $2 to $3 billion dollars a year to our Queensland economy.

Finally, this year will be crucial in terms of how Australia provides for the legal needs of its vulnerable citizens. With anticipated cuts of some 30% in Commonwealth legal aid funding on the near horizon, we have been developing strategies to strengthen our continuing advocacy on this critical issue.

Let us hope that reason prevails as our Queensland community legal centres approach this looming ‘fiscal cliff’.

Christine Smyth

QLS president