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With all due respect?: When push comes to shove wigs don’t budget

Every Issue

Cite as: (2005) 79(7) LIJ, p. 97


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By email to wadr@liv.asn.au, by fax on 9607 9451 or by mail C/- The LIJ, 470 Bourke Street, Melbourne 3000.

It was with great disappointment – and a tremendous amount of boredom – that WADR combed the state Budget papers released last May.

You see, WADR was once again looking for a line item – that’s Budget speak – relating to ongoing attempts by state Attorney-General Rob Hulls to rid the world of barristers’ wigs and gowns.

WADR had heard on the grapevine – one of many owned by our friends at the Bar – that Mr Hulls may follow the lead of Prime Minister John Howard and initiate a buyback scheme.

While the Prime Minister bought back guns, the thought of tempting barristers to give up their horsehair and frocks for some cash seemed like a solid idea and not one that should be easily brushed off.

However, a close examination of the Budget papers, handed down in May, showed the idea had obviously been scalped early in the process.

Maybe it was the danger that such a buyback scheme produces.

WADR is reminded of the kerfuffle caused by the gun buyback scheme, which led the Prime Minister to wear a bullet-proof vest at a public rally. One can only imagine that a wig buyback scheme would have had Mr Hulls reaching for a helmet at the next Victorian Bar Council breakfast.

Victorian Ombudsman and Director of Police Integrity George Brouwer gave a spirited speech at the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) President’s Luncheon on 18 May.

In the speech he raised the prospect of doing away with committal proceedings and raised questions about the ethical standards of Victorian lawyers.

But despite the gnashing of lawyerly teeth and the probing of three tables’ worth of journalists, Mr Brouwer maintained his ethical head.

At the completion of his speech he announced that in keeping with the high ethical standards of his position he would not accept the traditional gift for speakers at LIV functions – a bottle of wine.

Needless to say, many previously aggrieved lawyers were more than happy to line up to make use of the gift.

Each day, dozens of media releases are sent out to media organisations around the country in the hope of raising enough interest from the editor to get a run in the next day’s edition.

While many media releases simply state the purpose of the release and others stretch the truth a little in the hope of some attention, the odd one gets a second read because, well, they are odd.

Take the press release sent out by Austrade on 13 May.

The release, sent to the LIJ among others, was on the topic of projected improvements in export values. Not exactly water-cooler material. However, Austrade decided to inject a bit of Hollywood into the release.

It quotes Austrade’s chief economist Tim Harcourt likening various Australian export sectors to characters in the hit animation movie The Incredibles.

Mr Harcourt goes on to liken the commodity sector to Mr Incredible because it is “large and powerful” and the father figure of the export sector.

The manufacturing sector is Elastigirl, or Mrs Incredible, because while “not the same size or possessing the same strength as her husband” she is “nimble, quick and flexible”.

Then things become a bit of a stretch – or Elastigirl.

The eldest Incredible – Violet – is compared to the services sector, which includes legal services. Violet’s power is that she can become invisible.

According to Mr Harcourt, the service exports “are invisible and you can’t measure them like goods”.

Okay, the brow is raised by this point. Austrade has committed themselves to the metaphor and to their credit they are seeing it through.

Apparently, the emerging industries are Dash – the second child in the Incredibles family – because “you’ve got to be quick (like Dash) to get first mover advantage”.

Next week, Austrade likens different minerals to characters in The Godfather.

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