As we approach the 30th anniversary of the handing down of the historic and game-changing Fitzgerald Report, it is hard not to sit back and wonder how the corruption that the report exposed came to be. The massive criminal enterprise undertaken by corrupt police was stunning, not just because of the fact that those who ran it were those sworn to uphold the law, but also because of the lack of discretion. It seemed that everybody knew what was going on but nobody moved to stop it.
How the operation known as ‘The Joke’ was able to evolve openly and with impunity is a story of failure—failure of governance, failure of morals and most importantly a failure of leadership. From the Premier down, the message from the supposed leaders of our state and our police was that forced confessions, brown paper bags full of cash and disappearing witnesses were all OK. Until Tony Fitzgerald stepped up, no-one showed an ounce of leadership.
In fact, that is often the case—when something immoral or unethical happens, it is usually preceded by a failure of leadership. Whether it is a lawyer taking cash under the table or the Australian Cricket team reaching for the sandpaper, a failure to instil the right culture and to model desirable behaviour can usually be found.
On the other hand, when leadership is present, things go well. As solicitors, we should be looking to develop into leaders, because we are the guardians of the justice system and an essential cog in the operation of the rule of law. One way of doing that is listening to and engaging with those who have led things successfully and ethically, and importantly not necessarily confining that engagement to leaders within the profession.
With that thought in mind, I am proud to announce that QLS has launched the Aspire Leadership Lecture Series with the first lecture to be held on 24 July. The series will follow the successful format of the Society’s signature Modern Advocate Lecture Series, with the lecture followed by a networking session. Admission is complimentary and attendees will be able to claim 0.5 CPD points.
I am also very happy to note that our first speaker will be Isabelle Reinecke of Grata Fund. No doubt some members will already be aware of the great work Isabelle has done through the fund she founded and manages as Executive Director. Grata Fund uses litigation as a tool against unfair laws and violations of human rights. It empowers ordinary people by giving them access to the justice system and the resources to stand up for themselves no matter how powerful their opponent.
Hearing Isabelle talk about her journey and provide insights on leadership will no doubt be illuminating for members and help them to develop into leaders of substance and virtue. I hope to see many of you there for the inaugural lecture, and to catch up with you at the networking session.
We hope to see this series grow and become a mainstay of our annual program, because growing our members as leaders is one of the ways we can assure a fair and effective justice system. It is also a great way of making members more effective and employable lawyers. We all know that LLB stands for ‘Legum Baccalaureus’, but with this series launching it will also come to stand for Leveraging Leadership for Brilliance!
I should also note that the handing down of the state budget revealed a great many wins for QLS and its members. The increased funding to justice, is something we have long sought. In fact, it is fair to say that this budget is the culmination of five years of hard work from our advocacy team, our committee members and successive presidents
Of particular importance is the increased funding to QCAT, which has become one of the busiest places within our justice system. It is a fundamental cog in our system, for it so often deals with matters that directly affect the rights of people to hold licences, earn a living or even be able to run their own affairs. For a long time, however, the remuneration of sessional members has not reflected the importance of their role; addressing that is a win for justice in our state.
I also note a commitment of $9.5m to commence implementation of the information, communication and technology strategy in the justice portfolio, which I hope will include an upgrade to the IT system within the courts. Modernising what is by today’s standards a fairly primitive set-up should be a priority. The delays related to the current system are delaying justice—and justice delayed is justice denied.
Another win for Queenslanders came through the announcement of four new appointees to the bench: Ken Barlow as a District Court judge and Kurt Fowler, Peter Saggers and Brownyn Hartigan as magistrates. The appointment of magistrates Fowler and Saggers is particularly pleasing, because they are QLS members and solicitors. The government is now starting to tap into the rich vein of talent on the solicitor’s side of the profession, which is a win for our justice system.
I extend my heartiest congratulations to all the appointees and wish them all the best in their new roles, and thank the government for its vision on these appointments. I would add, however, that this is only a start, and the need for more people on the bench remains acute at all court and tribunal levels. With many more talented solicitors waiting in the wings, the only thing that currently prevents an adequately resourced court system is the purse strings. I urge the government to keep them loose and keep the appointments coming.
Bill Potts, QLS President