Lèse-majesté. Not a term you hear much in Australia, and no doubt few people here are familiar with it. It is a French phrase meaning ‘to do wrong to majesty’, and it generally refers to the crime of offending a country’s leaders—and such crimes are, thankfully, off most statute books these days. You might have a bit of trouble convincing Bernard Joseph Edward Collaery of that though. Officially, the Australian Barrister is facing prosecution for conspiring to communicate secret information to the Government of Timor-Leste; unofficially, it looks a heck of a lot like he is being prosecuted for embarrassing the government.
Collaery and his client, ‘witness K’, were involved in a case brought by the Timor-Leste government against the Australian Government over the bugging of the Timor-Leste cabinet offices in 2004. In scenes that we probably associate more with despotic regimes like North Korea, Collaery’s offices were raided and files seized; it is hard to avoid the suspicion that the motivations for this were related to political issues as much as national security concerns.
Witness K intends to plead guilty to breaching the Intelligence Services Act, and in view of that it is hard to see what utility there is in maintaining the action against his lawyer. I call on our federal attorney-general to re-evaluate what is really in our national interest, stand by the democratic rule of law and drop this prosecution, which is damaging our nation’s fine reputation as a fair and free country. Maintaining it is, in my view, far more embarrassing than the bugging of the offices in the first place, and has all the hallmarks of a petty attempt to resurrect Lèse-majesté via the back door.
On to happier things: as I write there are 106 days until Christmas, but of course we are all too busy to shop during the week so really there are only 30 shopping days until Christmas! I am not worried for myself as I have been very good and can rely on Santa, but for those who are not as confident it is time to get cracking in the Christmas shopping!
Why am I going on about Christmas at this early time? Because it pays to plan ahead; as Benjamin Franklin is reported to have said, "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail." That is especially true of those of us in this busy profession, as work and commitments tend to fill our time very quickly, and we can miss out on things if they are not locked in early.
It is for exactly that reason that QLS Members can now register for our 2020 Symposium online. Symposium will be held 13–14 March next year, and the full details of the programme will be released soon. The Society will bring together over 80 expert presenters, across six streams of substantive law including commercial, criminal, family, personal injuries, property and succession, plus a two-day core agenda.
Member early bird, early career lawyer and regional discounts are available and provide the opportunity to save over $270 on a standard two-day registration. I would urge anyone who can make it to get along, not just for the excellent and informative presentations, but for the chance to just chat with fellow practitioners. Law is one of those professions where only people who go through it know what it is like—good and bad. Never underestimate the benefit of sitting down and yarning with someone who really, actually does get what you are going through; cathartic doesn’t even cover it!
There are a few events to get to before that, however and I am particularly looking forward to our Celebrate, Recognise and Socialise event on 19 September, where we recognise members who have contributed loyal service to the society for 25 or even 50 years. It is heartening to know that QLS inspires such loyalty in our members, and I love acknowledging that whenever I get the chance.
Another thing worth acknowledging is the role our members play in the campaign to eradicate domestic violence, and one of the ways we do this is via the Dame Quentin Bryce Domestic Violence Prevention Advocate Award which will be presented at the 2019 Legal Profession Breakfast on Thursday 14 November. The award recognises the contribution, commitment and professionalism of a Queensland legal practitioner who has worked tirelessly to prevent violence against women. Nominations are now open, and I know there are many who deserve to win the award, let alone be nominated; I urge you all to put forward the name of a deserving colleague and recognise their efforts in this harrowing endeavour.
I look forward to catching up with as many of you as I can in our sprint to the end of the year. Take my advice and start Christmas shopping now!
Bill Potts, QLS President