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Law Institute advocacy

Every Issue

Cite as: (2003) 77(4) LIJ, p.12

To represent the interests of members and the wider community, the Law Institute actively seeks to influence policy and legislation through lobbying and submissions to government, the courts and other bodies.

Part-Time Magistrates

Law Institute president Bill O’Shea and CEO John Cain met with Department of Justice representatives to discuss a proposal for a part-time magistrates program. The Department has been examining the NSW model where magistrates in that state have a job-share arrangement but are prohibited from taking on other work. The Institute expressed concern about that proposal, particularly its inflexible nature for part-time workers who might want to move to full-time employment. The Institute believes magistrates should be appointed on a full-time basis and that there should be some flexibility in their working hours following appointment. As part of these discussions the Institute has also proposed there be more flexibility in the traditional opening hours of the courts to accommodate witnesses and unrepresented litigants who work during the day.

Court Landmark In Limbo

Mr O’Shea has met with the president of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) Murray Kellam and Chief Judge of the County Court Michael Rozenes to discuss the future of the old County Court building on the corner of William and Lonsdale Streets. The issue was also discussed with state Attorney-General Rob Hulls and the secretary of the Justice Department Peter Harmsworth. The Institute and the Department favour renovating the building and making it the new home of VCAT, which would complete the city’s legal precinct. Meanwhile, the Department has renegotiated a new lease on VCAT’s current King Street premises and it is unlikely that any move will occur in the short-term. Discussions between the courts and the Institute over the building’s future will continue.

Judicial Conduct

The Institute’s Litigation Lawyers Section Executive Committee has considered a discussion paper released last year by the state government on judicial conduct, and whether there was a need for a complaints system in Victoria. According to the Committee, although the incidence of judicial indiscretion is low, the review to achieve a formalised system to deal with judicial conduct and complaints is timely. It was decided that a formal commission-type system for receiving and investigating complaints against judicial officers in Victoria was unwarranted and the cost could not be justified. However, the Committee approved the adoption of a conduct guide for judges, along the lines of the guide available from the Australian Institute of Judicial Administration. The submission can be viewed at http://www.liv.asn.au/news/pro_issues/livsubs/2003/200303judconduct.pdf.

Federal Merits Tribunal System

The Law Institute has made a submission to federal Attorney-General Daryl Williams regarding proposals to reform the federal Merits Review Tribunal and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The Institute has raised serious concerns about Migration Regulation 4.31B which, in the view of its submission to the Federal Joint Standing Committee on Migration, is designed to deter applicants from pursuing their right to have an adverse refugee application decision reviewed. Under the regulation, those who apply and are unsuccessful in having the original decision overturned are charged a fee. According to the submission, the fee is punitive, discriminatory and a form of punishment for lodging a review application.

The submission can be viewed at http://www.liv.asn.au/news/pro_issues/livsubs/2003/200303migreg.pdf.

Convention Against Torture

The Law Institute has made a submission to the Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer regarding the United Nations’ Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture. In its submission, the Institute says that Australia should demonstrate its commitment to the protection of human rights and cooperation with UN agencies, and it should not allow its reputation to suffer by joining the company of countries with poor human rights records that do not support the Protocol. A copy of the submission can be viewed at http://www.liv.asn.au/news/pro_issues/livsubs.

Model Employment Contract

The Institute’s Workplace Relations Section has considered the National Model Employment Contract proposed by the Law Council of Australia. The Section believes that a uniform contract is not appropriate for use nationally by employers within the legal profession. By its nature, an employment contract represents negotiated terms between an employee and an employer on a range of matters. It is not possible to accommodate all the variances and the needs of the parties in a single document to be used nationally. However, the Institute is extremely supportive of the objectives of the draft contract in seeking to improve the regulation of employment terms and conditions within the legal profession, particularly those that focus on the achievement of work and life balance.

The submission can be viewed at http://www.liv.asn.au/news/pro_issues/livsubs/2003/200302empcontract.pdf.

Tax Ruling Submission

The Institute, through its TAC Committee, has made a submission to the Australian Tax Office (ATO) in response to the ATO’s Draft Ruling DR13, which covers compensation payouts.

The Institute is committed to protecting the rights of individuals, including accident victims, and members oppose changes to tax laws that may erode those victims’ entitlements under existing statutory compensation schemes. If DR13 is given effect, the Institute supports the proposal by the Australian Plaintiff Lawyers’ Association that the tax should be paid by the statutory insurers rather than the compensation recipients. However, the Institute favours a situation where the ruling is not given effect. A copy of the submission can be viewed at http://www.liv.asn.au/news/pro_issues/livsubs.

Bankruptcy Submission

The Institute has made a submission to the Insolvency & Trustee Service Australia regarding its report on the use of bankruptcy and family law schemes to avoid payment of tax. The Institute maintains that most of the assertions in the report are incorrect and changes to bankruptcy laws should not be made because they will unfairly penalise self-employed and small business operators protecting their families. The submission argues that urgent attention is needed to clarify bankruptcy laws so as to provide bona fide family asset protection in these circumstances. A copy of the submission can be viewed at http://www.liv.asn.au/news/pro_issues/livsubs.

Commonwealth Age Discrimination Legislation

The Institute has made a submission in response to federal Attorney-General Daryl Williams’ information paper on proposals for commonwealth age discrimination legislation. The Discrimination Committee of the Institute’s Workplace Relations Section considered the proposal to introduce the laws, and agreed that legislation should be introduced defining age discrimination as both direct and indirect. The Institute has suggested that a practical guide explaining this new definition would be best done by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

The submission can be viewed in detail at http://www.liv.asn.au/news/pro_issues/livsubs/2003/200302agediscrim.pdf.

Disability Convention

The Institute’s Disability Law Committee has made a submission to the federal Attorney-General’s Department strongly supporting the development of a Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. There is clearly a lack of protection for people with disabilities under the existing international framework and it is anomalous that conventions exist in relation to the rights of the child, the elimination of racial discrimination and discrimination against women. However, there is no convention specifically on the rights of people with disabilities.

A copy of the submission can be viewed at http://www.liv.asn.au/news/pro_issues/livsubs.

LIV and the media

Ethics program
LIV launches ethics program for designated ethics practitioners
28 February Australian Financial Review, Herald Sun, 3AK
3 March Justinian
7 March Australian Financial Review

Legal aid for children on appeal
LIV calls on Victoria Legal Aid to fund appeals from the Children’s Court
10 March 3AW, ABC radio news, 3AK, AAP, SBS radio, Gold FM
11 March Pulse FM Geelong

Sleepy driver review
LIV has offered to set up a working party to review culpable driving laws
19 February Herald Sun, 3AW (Neil Mitchell program), 3AK
28 February Herald Sun, Gold FM radio
5 March ABC South Western

Back to school plan for lawyers
LIV says mandatory continuing education will formalise professional training of lawyers
25 February The Age

Car checks should be bulletproof
LIV urges VicRoads to carry out a security review
23 February Sunday Age

Commonwealth Law Conference
LIV promotes delegates’ assistance scheme
21 February The Age, Australian Financial Review

President’s luncheon
LIV hosts talk by Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Kevin Rudd
20 February SBS TV, Australian Financial Review, Herald Sun

Counter-terrorism laws
LIV comments on state government’s counter-terrorism laws
10 March The Age


PAUL CONROY is the Law Institute’s media adviser. He is also available to help members with particular media issues and can be contacted on 9607 9373 or pconroy@ liv.asn.au.

advocacy@liv.asn.au

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