Queensland Law Society

Gold Coast Symposium 2018

Friday 8 June, Surfers Paradise Marriot Resort & Spa

Welcome speech, president

Good morning everyone, and welcome to this year’s Gold Coast Symposium.

This year is the 11th anniversary of our Gold Coast Symposium, and it is a pleasure to be here on the sunny Gold Coast as we bring professional development to your backyard.

With the Gold Coast now a large city in its own right, it is only fair that we continue conferences such as this for the increasing number of solicitors in the area.

With the main hub often being Brisbane, the Society recognises the need for professional development and networking opportunities in other city and regional centres.

Today I would like to briefly share some updates with you on some key items your Society has been working on.

Firstly, you would have heard of plans to amalgamate the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and the Family Court of Australia.

The Society’s views are in step with the NSW Law Society and the Law Council of Australia, as we support improvements to our court systems but are cautious.

We now have some more information which is concerning and may not be in the best interests of the legal profession or Australian families.

From what we understand, the Australian Government plan to address the growing delays and high costs to Australian families by establishing a new court structure.

This would see the Federal Circuit Court and Family Court of Australia merged and the appeals division abolished.

This decision has been made outside the current family law review being conducted by the Australian Law Reform Commission.

It appears that the court restructure will see the Family Court phased out in time.

Our concern with this course of action is that we would see a court well-versed in sensitive family law matters being abolished in favour of one court that handles multiple areas of law.

This could be to the detriment of Australian families who will not benefit from the expertise the Family Court provides.

Family lawyers would also be aware of other significant changes that have been announced which involve limiting legal representation in family law disputes.

Access to legal advice and representation is critical to the resolution of family law matters and helps to ensure litigants are properly informed and understand legal matters.

People going through family law disputes are often at their most vulnerable and family law disputes often involve other complex issues including family violence, mental health issues and drug and alcohol addiction.

We firmly believe there is a significant unacceptable risk that the complex needs of litigants will not be identified where neither party is represented. There is also greater risk of poorer outcomes where litigants make decisions without advice.

We maintain that any significant changes to the court system must be considered in a holistic manner as part of the ALRC’s review and in consultation with relevant stakeholders.

We hope to be involved during the consultation period to voice our concerns for both the legal profession and the community.

We have contributed to the ongoing review with specialists from five QLS policy committees flagging issues such as accessibility and engagement, the protection of children and their families, adequate resourcing and infrastructure, and the mental health and wellbeing of those working in the family law system.

We contributed to the LCA’s submission to the review, and also made a direct submission to the ALRC in response to the Issues Paper.

We will continue to engage in this process.

For those practising in personal injuries or as general practitioners, QLS has been working closely with MAIC and the Government to bring about legislative reform to prevent and dis-incentivise claim farmers and those who pay them.

We are hoping that this new legislation will be introduced into this space shorty. Solicitors who engage claim farmers should be stopped and should face appropriate ramifications for their actions.

We have also spoken to both members and the public to warn against claim farming.

Claim farming can take many forms and we are now seeing the trend of non-legal consultancy firms being the middle-men in this process.

We are urging all members to steer clear of any practice which involves monetary gain for a client submitting their details for a potential claim.

As solicitors, it is our role to remain ethical and above reproach, and so I encourage all practitioners to avoid utilising any type of ploy or outside organisation to find clients other than genuine referral sources, regardless of how innocuous it may seem.

If you have any queries or concerns, our QLS Ethics Centre are there to assist.

Other areas we have been working in include the debate on whether or not there should be specific offences introduced for elder abuse in Queensland.

Stay tuned to the discussion as we acknowledge Elder Abuse Awareness Day on the 15th June.

We have also contributed recently to the five-yearly review of the workers’ compensation scheme.

One of the key areas identified so far has been how to tackle the rise of workers in the “gig economy”. We will keep members updated on the review.

Our attendance at the 14th Actuary presentation on the performance of Queensland’s workers’ compensation scheme indicated that it remains strong and stable.

You can keep up to date with our advocacy work through our advocacy page on the QLS website, social media, the weekly QLS Update e-newsletter and our monthly Proctor magazine.

The Society is here to support you.

We are always looking for ways to better our mission of advocating for good law, supporting good lawyers and assisting the government with the best laws for the public good.

My door is always open for feedback and new ideas.

Thank you.