Queensland Law Society

President's Update

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Last week I had the opportunity to meet with our members in areas affected by Cyclone Debbie, visiting Proserpine, Bowen, Airlie Beach and Mackay.

The warm welcome our group received was heartening and it was appreciated that members took the time to brief us not only on the impact of the cyclone but also other, non-weather-related issues of concern to the local profession.

The feedback was much appreciated and the Society will be seeking ways in which these concerns can be addressed.

We were able to visit a practice directly affected by the weather and chat to staff about the clean-up process. Their can-do attitude and positivity towards recovery and rebuilding was great to see.

Our local practitioners know first-hand the impact that a disaster such as this has on a community as it affects them also, and I have been inspired by the resilience of our members during this difficult time.

We also met with the Attorney-General, Yvette D’Ath, and held a joint press conference at the Mackay Community Legal Centre to speak about funding cuts and the important work that CLCs carry out.

We were able to highlight the fact that CLCs deliver a vital community service, along with the many private solicitors who also regularly provide free legal services to disadvantaged members of the Queensland community, noting that Queensland solicitors provided more than 290,000 hours of pro bono assistance in 2015-16.

Our team, including QLS Ethics Centre director Stafford Shepherd, also met with local magistrates, registrars, district law association members and QLS regional members.

It was extremely beneficial to speak to those in the regions and to also simply touch base with them. We are a Society for all of Queensland and I place great importance on ensuring that all of our members are given a voice and that I can engage with them at some point during my term.

I would like to thank those we met with for their time, their willingness to share their stories and opinions, and for those who even opened their firms or the local courts to us during our trip.

After an all-too-brief Easter break, this week it was back to business with appearances at two parliamentary inquiries yesterday and a round of media interviews.

QLS Criminal Law Committee member Rebecca Fogerty and I attended the parliamentary Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee’s public hearing on the Crime and Corruption and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2017.

We raised three key concerns on this legislation – the expanded definition of corrupt conduct, the need for full and proper disclosure by all prosecuting authorities, and the need to restrict the derivative use of statements and documents provided under compulsion. More details are included in our submission to the inquiry.

At the same committee’s public hearing on the Court and Civil Legislation Amendment Bill 2017, I was joined by QLS Litigation Rules Committee chair Tony Deane and QLS Property and Development Law Committee member Matthew Glenn to elaborate on our submission to the inquiry. We raised four key issues arising from this omnibus Bill. These were related to clarifying a provision in the Trusts Act, proposed changes to the role of Legal Aid Queensland’s CEO, the Appeal Costs Fund and amendments to the Retail Shop Leases Act.

On the media front, I have been speaking on behalf of our members in support of the appointment of more magistrates at the Southport Magistrates Court, and I believe a government announcement on this is now imminent.

Other topics the media sought our views on were the Crime and Corruption Commission hearing on the Gold Coast City Council election and travel claims made by the Queensland judiciary.

 

Christine Smyth

QLS president