6 February 2019
February is reality.
By that I mean that for most of the profession, the holidays are over and the serious business of serving the rule of law and standing up for our clients, without fear or favour, is well and truly underway. We can no longer bask in the glow of the so-called ‘silly season’; from here until Easter, it is work, work, work.
Luckily for the profession, we here at QLS have found a way to squeeze one last drop out of the holiday season, with the New Year Profession Drinks, which are being held in the Banco Court on 7 February, kicking off at 5.30 (and that is 5.30pm), in case anyone is in any doubt). This function is a great way to start the working year, and the only price participants pay is they have to listen to a speech from me — which I promise will be short and sweet!
I urge everyone who can make it to this function to do so. A great way to fortify yourselves for the year ahead is to have a pleasant yarn with your fellow lawyers, who alone among your friends have an understanding of the pressures and challenges you will encounter in 2019. I hope to see many early career lawyers there, as such networking opportunities are especially important for those in the spring of their careers, even if only to absorb cautionary tales from those of us in the autumn of our professional lives! Seriously, any chance to build the professional friendships that will sustain your career should be grasped with enthusiasm.
Also on the serious side, I note with cautious optimism a report in The Australian that the federal opposition has expressed, through Legal Affairs Spokesman Mark Dreyfuss, a commitment to establishing an independent panel to appoint judges and members to the federal courts and tribunals. The Society has long-supported transparency when it comes to these appointments, largely so that the general public can see the process is based overwhelmingly on merit, which is one of the reasons Queensland and Australia have such competent and fair judges, magistrates and tribunal members. Opening these processes up for public viewing can only increase the faith in the system, which is essential to its effectiveness.
That isn’t to say all is rosy with the opposition’s stance. For example, the proposed makeup of the appointment panel is a head of jurisdiction, a retired judge and a deputy-secretary from the Attorney-General. That panel’s mix would be much-improved by the addition of representatives from the relevant law societies and bar associations; input from those who are to work with the appointees is surely highly valuable in this process.
Also of concern is that Mr Dreyfuss adroitly avoided making any mention of increasing the number of judges, even when addressing the question of Family Court and Federal Circuit Court workloads. Politicians of every stripe can dance around the mastodon in the room all they like, but justice only functions when it is properly resourced; we need more judges.
The Society will — as it has in the past — call on major parties to commit to a number of legal reforms, and you can be assured that a judicial commission (which handles both appointments and performance issues, and is fully independent) and an increase in justice resourcing will be prominent. The Call to Parties will include a bigger and more diverse bench and proper funding of legal aid; you will hear more detail of our Call to Parties as we get closer to the election.
Yes, February is reality and a part of the reality is work, but it isn’t all of it. That reality includes being part of a great profession that works toward the greater good, and which is backed by a society that’s committed to empowering our members and facilitating the great work they do. It will be a big year, but you aren’t facing it alone — QLS has your back, never doubt it!
Bill Potts, QLS President
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