One of the many privileged roles wrapped up in the QLS Presidency is being the voice of our profession to the general public. I have been doing a bit of that of late, through various media organisations, especially around the recent change to the laws regarding murder.
This change—effectively extending the definition of murder to include non-intentional failings—is of deep concern, and my challenge of late has been to explain to the public why we don’t agree with it. The problem of course is unintended consequences; there is a world of difference between someone who strikes a defenceless child so violently that the child dies, and someone involved in a genuine tragedy such as backing over a child in the driveway.
Despite that, in Queensland the law will now treat those two people as having done equally reprehensible things. Indeed, an exhausted single mum working three jobs to feed her family could fall asleep on the couch and find herself facing murder charges because one of her kids got into the neighbour’s pool and drowned. What rational, humane person would think it good to slap a grieving mother, already racked with guilt and sorrow over her child’s death, with a murder charge? A failure of parenting is not a failure of humanity, but in Queensland they are treated the same.
I have also spoken on an attempt by a local council to activate a model local law in such a way as to prohibit protesters. This is no doubt in response to the Adani convoy and the acts committed not so long ago by animal activists. I have to say that as we approach the anniversary of the Fitzgerald inquiry’s findings, the curtailing of the right to march sounds an ominous note.
I speak about these things because we need to stand up for the rule of law, which is under unprecedented attack in recent times. Political parties of every stripe are engaging in a lot of pseudo-macho chest beating as to who is tougher on crime/protesters/climate change/insert issue of the month here. The stances we, as officers of the court, must take on many issues are not popular and often draw fire from the public, but we don’t have a choice.
That is why I talk about them—because if we take the time to explain our views, the public will understand. We cannot pontificate from on high and condescendingly tell everyone to simply trust us because we are so smart; explaining the importance of our system and of resisting populist policies seeking to trump the rule of law is a burden we all bear. I urge everyone to take courage and bear that burden well, because I think we are in for a long period of legislative over-reach; if we don’t resist it, who will?
OK, enough of the sombre stuff; on to the fun! Next week is Law Week, and I hope to see a lot of you at the various events, especially the Queensland Legal Walk and the QLS Open Day. I am also looking forward to seeing Cairns practitioners at the first regional edition of our Modern Advocate Lecture Series, on 20 June. I hope as many of our Cairns crew as possible can get along to this excellent (and free) event to benefit from the wisdom of the esteemed Justice James Henry (and have a few collegial drinks with your peers!). You can register for the event here and details of the series and past lectures can be found here.
I am also glad to note that the Society’s in-house counsel committee is up and running. This committee focuses specifically on the unique issues our members who work in-house face on a daily basis. The committee is the go-to section of QLS for in-house lawyers who need assistance on everything from ensuring their position description and employment conditions maintain their independence as practitioners, to ensuring their voices are heard on legislation that affects the way they ply their trade. You can read more about the committee here. Stay tuned to Update, Proctor and LawTalk for more news of the committee’s activities.