Queensland Law Society

President's Update

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As the cleanup and repair work continues in the wake of Cyclone Debbie, it is timely to acknowledge the efforts of those who have given generously of their time and expertise in managing this catastrophic weather event.

Firstly, the Society’s thanks go to the many members who have provided their professional services to victims or just mucked in to help with the massive job of cleaning flooded premises and clearing away the piles of debris. And we also thank those who simply made the effort to ensure that their mates and neighbours were OK.

In such a dramatic or dangerous situation, the most important thing is to look after our families and loved ones, but given that our profession is grounded in service to the community, it is no surprise that so many solicitors were also looking out for their colleagues, friends and neighbours.

On behalf of Queensland solicitors, our thanks go to the emergency services personnel who have worked, and continue to work, long hours to ensure the safety of the community and restoration of normalcy. It may be their ‘job’, but in this instance I know first-hand that many have gone above and beyond in their duty.

Thanks are also due to the QLS staff who stayed put to ensure that Council completed its meeting as the rest of Brisbane shut down around us, and those who have ensured that the Society’s response to this disaster was both timely and appropriate.

Again, it is worth reminding everyone of services available for those impacted by Cyclone Debbie or its aftermath:

  • Law Foundation Queensland if you require information about interest-free loans to assist with recovery through the Benevolent Fund.
  • Queensland Law Society website for guidance on what to do if your firm has been affected by flooding or extreme weather conditions.
  • Lexon Insurance website if they are your insurer.
  • LawCare if you require any assistance with counselling, advice on how to help others or assistance with developing plans to manage issues and challenges. Please remember that QLS members, their staff and families do have access to up to six hours of free counselling each year through LawCare.

I’d also like to mention an upcoming webinar that will be useful for practitioners. The Conveyancing Settlements and Natural Disasters webinar on 12 May will utilise the resources of the QLS Ethics Centre to provide guidance on settlements and other legal issues that arise in these situations. See the item in this issue of QLS Update for more information.

Last week I met with practitioners from Logan, the Scenic Rim and the Gold Coast, and witnessed some of the dreadful consequences of the rain and flooding. As you read this I will be on my way to northern Queensland to meet with local district law association members for further discussion on the assistance that they may need and how we as a Society can help in this and future situations.

Amid all of the above there were still many of the ‘routine’ activities of a QLS president to be attended to. Over the past week I have met with stakeholders to discuss the ramifications of the Court of Appeal decision in R v Pham (see last week’s QLS Update), which is likely to produce major changes in the way co-defendants are represented.

On Thursday, I welcomed attendees to our succession law Masterclass and on Friday spoke in the Banco Court to celebrate the swearing-in of Walter Sofronoff QC as a justice of the Supreme Court to sit as the President of the Court of Appeal.

His Honour is one of Queensland’s finest legal minds and has been one of Australia’s most eminent and respected lawyers. We welcome his appointment and anticipate that he will be fiercely independent and lead the court with distinction.

Yesterday I joined immediate past president Bill Potts to speak at the parliamentary Education, Tourism, Innovation and Small Business Committee public hearing on the Police Powers and Responsibilities (Commonwealth Games) Amendment Bill 2017.

We raised several key concerns, including the power for police to search persons and to stop and search vehicles without the threshold test of ‘reasonable suspicion’, and the need for increased access to legal assistance services for those persons affected by increased police powers.

And this morning it was a pleasure to speak at the Southport Courthouse to welcome Judge Catherine Muir to the District Court.

Christine Smyth
QLS president