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Cite as: March 2011 85(3) LIJ, p.8

Umbrella only covers so much

It may be a great idea to place 10 professions and around 500,000 professionals under one umbrella; once the rain starts it’s clear that that umbrella was not designed to stretch that far.

Dr Freckelton’s article “Under the one umbrella” [December 2010 LIJ, pp32-37] provided a succinct overview of the intentions provided for under the new legislation. The practice has been somewhat less clear and orderly and reflects the struggle that [the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency] (AHPRA) and most of the boards are undergoing simply to understand and then implement their new obligations and responsibilities.

The transition to the new system has been somewhat of a nightmare for large sections of the healthcare workforce. Contrary to appearances, there is not one consistent set of criteria for registration and regulation of the 10 health professions, as the board of each profession has developed its own requirements.

Nor do the five categories for practitioner registration apply across all professions (particularly “specialist” registration).

From practical experience, some of the lessons to be aware of in preparation for national registration in the legal profession are:

  • Resources were underestimated in setting up the national scheme and AHPRA. Boards appear to continue to suffer under the strain.
  • Experienced administrators are essential to the leadership of any new national body.
  • Transition from one system to an alternate should be a gradually managed process rather than taking effect on one “drop dead” date.
  • Informed call centre staff are required before and after the date of change to support members of the profession.
  • Even with a 12-month lead-in time there were a large number of health practitioners unaware the system had changed.
  • If the rules are changing, the profession and the regulatory body need to be clear on what the rules are before the date of change, and provide opportunity to transition.
  • For some areas of practice, the threshold for registration was raised at the time of implementation of the national scheme. This has a direct impact on students currently enrolled or recently graduated, to their disadvantage, and needed prior consideration.

A project management approach may have been more effective in ensuring that the national scheme commenced more smoothly.

If such an approach had been used, the scheme could have been introduced gradually over two or three years, learning from the transition of one profession at a time, rather than opening one umbrella and turning a blind eye to the inevitable rain.


For providing the letter of the month, Jeanette Jifkins has won a $50 book voucher from the LIV bookshop, redeemable for the next 12 months.

Time is right for change

In December 2010, the Public Interest Law Clearing House (PILCH) Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic (HPLC) launched We want change!, a new report calling for the offence of begging to be abolished.

The HPLC surveyed people begging in the Melbourne CBD and inner city area, which provided a stark example of the way in which poverty, homelessness, ill health and substance misuse intersect.

People who beg tend to be among the most marginalised and isolated within society. Begging is usually a last resort activity for extremely poor people to supplement their minimal income and satisfy their basic needs.

Results of this survey showed:

  • 73 per cent of participants were experiencing long-term unemployment. No participant listed any form of employment as their primary source of income. Instead, 26.92 per cent of participants said that a disability support pension was their primary income, while the same number gave begging as their primary source of income;
  • 53.85 per cent of participants were suffering from mental illness, while 15.38 per cent were experiencing physical disability and 11.54 per cent were suffering from intellectual disability;
  • 38.46 per cent of respondents were experiencing drug dependency, 15.38 per cent were experiencing alcohol dependency and 15.38 per cent were experiencing problem gambling;
  • 23.08 per cent of participants had experienced domestic or family violence; and
  • 50 per cent of participants were sleeping rough at the time of the survey. The next most common forms of accommodation were men’s shelters (15.38 per cent), squats (11.54 per cent) and rooming houses (11.54 per cent).

Clearly begging is a symptom of poverty. The people we interviewed were experiencing extreme poverty and disadvantage, and begging is their last resort to allow them to access food, shelter, healthcare and other basic requirements.

Criminalising begging effectively criminalises poverty and annoying (so-called “anti-social”) behaviours.

This “tough” approach has a deleterious effect on the Victorian community’s culture of tolerance, respect and equality. A more effective means of discouraging begging would be to address its causes: alleviate the disadvantage of those who beg, and particularly address their need for food, shelter and healthcare.

We want change! is available at


Problematic property reports

We accept that Land Channel planning property reports obtained over the internet are a very useful tool for conveyancing purposes.

However, everybody should be aware of the disclaimer at the bottom that “No claim is made as to the accuracy or authenticity of the documentation provided”.

We have searched titles to properties from the information supplied by Land Channel. On two occasions, the title searches issued were for completely different properties. The lot and plan numbers were erroneous.

In another instance, the property numbers were reversed between two adjoining properties. The incoming mortgagee searched the title to the property number based on the Land Channel report and came up with a different title from that which was being purchased pursuant to the contract.

Land Channel reports for properties in Howlong Road, Rutherglen have described these properties as having road frontages to Williamsons Road, Browns Plains Road and Murray Valley Highway.

But cadastral plans show the properties to have frontages to Murray Valley Highway/Howlong Road. Indigo Shire describes the road as Howlong Road. The title plan to one of the properties describes the road as Browns Plains Road. The original plan of subdivision shows the road as Browns Plains Road. Edition 2 of the plan of subdivision describes the road as Howlong Road.

Whatever is the case, it is not Williamsons Road.

Land Channel has advised that it is aware of 6000 errors out of a total of 3,300,000 parcels (one in 550 error rate). Our error rate in Rutherglen stands at about one in five. Land Channel has asked to be advised of known errors. Another area of pro bono work for lawyers.

If there are so many errors within Land Channel, one wonders whether the planning information can be relied on for a vendors statement.


Editor’s note: At the time of publication, Land Channel had fixed some of the errors pointed out in this letter.

Assange deserves backing

I am moved to write by statements made by the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and reported in newspapers on 2 February 2011. Ms Gillard is quoted as saying that she has no responsibility for and can do nothing about the legal situation faced by Julian Assange.

There are a number of things that the government can and should do for Mr Assange. Importantly, the Australian government should seek very clear diplomatic assurances from the Swedish government that Mr Assange will be free to return to a country of his choice if the investigation concerning alleged sexual misconduct by Mr Assange in Sweden is determined in his favour.

There is a real risk that the Swedish extradition request might be used as an excuse to have Mr Assange extradited from Sweden to the United States.

Ms Gillard could also desist from disseminating information that misrepresents the basis of the extradition request as “charges” against Mr Assange. The only charge against Mr Assange was issued in mid-August 2010 and cancelled by a more senior prosecutor the following day. The request for extradition is only for the purpose of requiring Mr Assange to answer questions by prosecutors.

Ms Gillard should also state very clearly that she and her government fully accept the findings of the Australian Federal Police that indicate that there is no evidence that the release of diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks breaks any Australian law.

Ms Gillard’s recent statement also suggests that she has little understanding of the broader global effects of the release of diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks in association with other media organisations, including Australian media outlets. The released cables have shown that governments’ unwillingness to tell the truth to the people they represent is more pervasive than even the greatest cynics among us might have predicted.

The publication of the truth about the actions of governments can have dramatic effects, including that of bringing down dictatorships.

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are cornerstones of liberal democracies. The exercise of these rights by Mr Assange, a citizen of this country, should be championed not compromised by the Australian government.


Fridays on her mind

I have just had a look at the most recent Friday Facts. I would like to acknowledge the improvements I have seen in this particular publication.

I think it is terrific that President Counsel is creating an online presence through Twitter and blogging. Further, the dates located within “In The Community” are great reminders of upcoming events, and I am particularly impressed that this space has also been utilised to advertise positions – the links to the relevant position descriptions are extremely useful as well. This is a very intelligent use of this feature.

There is definitely a marked improvement in Friday Facts – congratulations.


We welcome letters to the editor of no more than 400 words.

Email: Fax: 9607 9451 Mail: LIJ, Managing Editor Mick Paskos, GPO Box 263, Melbourne 3001; or DX 350 Melbourne. We reserve the right to edit letters and to republish them in their original or edited form on the internet or in other media. Letters must include a phone number and address for authentication.


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