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Call to the Parties 2014

Cite as: March 2014 88 (03) LIJ, p.6

Let’s not waste this election year opportunity.

By Michael Brett Young, LIV CEO

Love it or hate it, a new election year has arrived. Personally, I love them because it’s the one time you can be confident all political parties are listening to what you have to say.

Victorians will be asked to head to the polls some time this year and with that in mind the LIV launched its Call to the Parties 2014 document – a rundown of the big challenges confronting the legal profession and the community and how we think the Victorian government can address them.

For those of you who haven’t had a chance to look at the document on the LIV website yet, these are some of the issues we are asking both the government and the opposition to consider as they work on their policy platforms beyond the election:

  • the urgent need for increased funding of legal aid in Victoria – chronic underfunding over the past 12 years means that it has become increasingly difficult to qualify for legal aid and the LIV is calling for access to justice for everyone in the community, particularly the most disadvantaged;
  • an improvement in access to justice across rural, regional and remote areas – the LIV is calling for increased opportunities and better financial incentives for clinical placements for law students and graduates;
  • a review of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities – the LIV was a strong advocate for the establishment of the Charter in 2007 and is calling for its retention;
  • reform to the state’s criminal justice system, including a justice reinvestment approach to reducing crime by reallocating funds from the prison system to community services which aim to prevent crime;
  • reform of tort law;
  • a greater commitment to advancing transparency, accountability and best practice improvements;
  • improvements to existing privacy protections;
  • greater access to courts through limits on court fees and increased court resources in rural, regional and remote areas; and
  • improving transparency, oversight and accountability in the State Revenue Office reporting framework.

If you take the time to read the document in its entirety, you will see that these issues aren’t only good for our profession, they are essential for a fair and functioning legal system that ensures access to justice for all in the community.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of policy issues. The LIV will continue to question the parties on other issues outside the core list and members should feel free to contact me to raise any other important policy questions.

Every member will be impacted by one or more of the areas identified in Call to the Parties 2014. This is a significant opportunity to influence the future of Victoria, and the LIV will be lobbying government to ensure the key players are well aware of the issues and why there needs to be reform.

For the profession to have any impact in creating real change around these issues, we need LIV members to start communicating with their local members of Parliament so that the message is being reinforced in their electorates.

However, we also need public support if we are going to see any reform from government. I would urge all our members, particularly those in the suburban and country areas, to familiarise themselves with the issues and get out there and start talking to their clients and other community members about the issues that are important to them at a local level.

As with every election year, this one delivers a chance for us to achieve changes that will benefit not only our profession but Victorians more broadly. Let’s not waste the opportunity.

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