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Law Institute advocacy

Every Issue

Cite as: (2003) 77(10) 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.

International commercial arbitration
Law Institute president Bill O’Shea and CEO John Cain met with Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (ACICA) president Professor Michael Pryles to discuss the re-establishment of an ACICA office in Melbourne. ACICA operated in Victoria for several years handling international mediation and arbitration. It was also involved in mediating and arbitrating retail tenancy disputes but lost the work when the Kennett government set up an alternative system.

ACICA’s role is to promote Australia as a location for international arbitration and to increase the knowledge and awareness of arbitration among lawyers. The Institute has agreed to ACICA having a presence at the Institute, as well as providing assistance from a research solicitor on a part-time basis. ACICA will examine the need for an accreditation system and how to make Australia a centre for international arbitration in our region.

Body corporate laws
Mr Cain met with the Minister for Finance and Consumer Affairs John Lenders over shortcomings in existing body corporate laws. The meeting was an information gathering exercise for Mr Lenders. Mr Lenders has now appointed a government backbencher to examine the issue in more detail.

The Institute, which publicly raised the issue, has argued that Victoria’s body corporate laws do not adequately protect apartment and unit owners and that there is an urgent need to set up a formal dispute resolution procedure to protect their interests. The Institute believes the present laws present a serious access to justice issue that will only become worse as the number of people moving into apartments increases.

Federal awards and law firms
The state government has passed the Federal Awards (Uniform System) Act 2003 which facilitates the referral of the state’s industrial relations powers to the federal government. One of the consequences of this legislation is that many businesses, including law firms that have been award free, could be bound by a federal award. Both governments are still in negotiation over the final form of the legislation. In any event, it is likely to impact on firms of all sizes. The Institute will be engaged in further discussions on this issue and will gather information, with the aim of developing a strategy of informing members about the implications of the award.

Family Court study
The Institute has welcomed a preliminary study by the Australian National Audit Office into the administration of the Family Court and the Federal Magistrates Service. In a submission, the Institute said it was greatly concerned about the current level of service provided by the Court that remains understaffed because of reduced funding. This has resulted in significant delays which are outside case management guidelines. The situation is worse in Melbourne because the local registry is forced to provide administrative support to the Court in Hobart. A copy of the submission can be viewed at http://www.liv.asn.au/news/pro_issues/livsubs/

Meeting on Young Person’s Commissioner
Mr O’Shea met with representatives of the Youth Affairs Council of Victoria to discuss the progress of drafting a model Bill to set up a Children and Young Person’s Commissioner. Mr O’Shea has already met with the Minister for Youth Affairs Jacinta Allen and other government ministers about the need for a Commissioner. The Commissioner would aim to raise the awareness of policy makers about issues affecting young people, before the policies were formulated and implemented.

Unfair dismissal procedures
The Institute’s Workplace Relations Section has prepared a letter to Australian Industrial Relations Commission senior deputy president Simon Williams about procedures in his jurisdiction. In the letter written after a meeting with Mr Williams, the Section stressed the importance of directions hearings. The Institute also suggested that only exceptional unfair dismissal applications should last for more than one day. With the view of reducing costs, a time limit of one day should apply with parties requiring leave if further time was required. The letter can be viewed at http://www.liv.asn.au/news/pro_issues/livsubs/

Short-term judges
Mr O’Shea and Mr Cain met with state Attorney-General, Rob Hulls to discuss a proposal to draft temporary judges to cope with busier periods in the courts. Mr Hulls is considering drawing short-term judges from the ranks of barristers, solicitors and legal academics. The Institute supports the proposal in principle as long as it preserves judicial independence and there are safeguards in place to protect this. The need for increased resources for the Magistrates’ Court was also raised.

Free trade agreement
A number of law firms attended a meeting at the Institute as part of feedback to Australia’s negotiators on the Australia/US free trade agreement. Gordon Hughes, on behalf of the Law Council of Australia (LCA) International Section, convened the meeting attended by LCA representative Margery Nicol, federal Attorney-General’s Department representative John Tucker and Australia’s chief negotiator on the trade agreement Dr Milton Churche. The law firms in attendance included Minter Ellison, which recently opened an office in San Francisco, Allens Arthur Robinson and Corrs Chambers Westgarth. The group provided Mr Churche with concrete examples of market barriers for lawyers wanting to provide services in the US.

American Bar Association
Mr O’Shea attended the four-day American Bar Association conference in San Francisco in late August. An estimated 10,000 lawyers attended the conference, with 200 from outside the US. Mr O’Shea and LCA Secretary-General Michael Lavarch took a strong line on the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay and used every opportunity to raise this issue in the various sessions. They were strongly supported by the Law Society of England and Wales.

Another key issue for many lawyers was the erosion of legal professional privilege in the wake of Enron. The Law Society of England and Wales hosted a dinner attended by representatives from law societies of the Commonwealth countries present at the conference.

David Hicks
As part of an international campaign by lawyers, Mr O’Shea co-authored a letter calling on the US government to provide independent civilian legal counsel for all detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. The letter has already been published in the New York Times and the UK Guardian.

An appeal on the basis of habeas corpus has already been lodged in the US Supreme Court, backed by Australian law bodies including the Law Institute. The hearing is expected to play a crucial role in deciding the future of Australian detainees in Guantanamo Bay, David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib. The Commonwealth Lawyers Association, representing law societies from Commonwealth countries, will brief lawyers set to participate in the appeal, due to be heard this month.

Legal regulation
Following the state government’s announcement about regulation of the legal system, Mr O’Shea and Mr Cain met with the government’s consultative committee. The new Bill is expected to be drafted early next year and should be ready for a second reading in Parliament a few months later. The new Legal Services Commissioner is expected to be appointed late next year. During a recent trip overseas, Mr O’Shea also had discussions with the Law Society of Scotland on regulation of the legal profession.

Meeting with Justice Department
Mr O’Shea and Mr Cain met with the secretary of the Justice Department Penny Armytage to discuss the implementation of the new regulatory system for lawyers, professional standards legislation, legal aid funding, the ongoing justice strategy review and the need for mediation facilities in the courts.

LIV and the media

Body corporate laws
LIV continues call for review of body corporate laws
10 August Sunday Age
20 August Emerald Hill Times

Crimes Commission
LIV expresses concern about new Crime Commission and civil liberties implications
14 August The Age

Legal complaints system
LIV welcomes new regulatory system creating single gateway for complaints
15 August Portland Observer

Juvenile justice
LIV discusses children and the justice system
19 August 3AK
23 August Ballarat Courie

Women barristers
LIV comments on women barristers briefing report
22 August Herald Sun, Australian Financial Review
24 August Lawyers Weekly

Harold Holt inquiry
LIV examines State Coroner’s inquiry into the death of Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt
25 August ABC radio (AM program)

More young lawyers for regional Victoria
LIV supports La Trobe University establishing a law course at Bendigo
28 August ABC radio (central Victoria)
29 August Bendigo Advertiser, 3BO FM Bendigo

Sentencing
LIV debates sentencing with Crime Victims Support Association
26 August 3AK
9 September 3AK

Ms X
LIV discusses Board of Examiners case involving woman solicitor seeking approval to practise
27 August Herald Sun
6 September The Age

Legal Lecture
LIV promotes VCE legal studies lecture
1 September The Age

Divorce laws
LIV condemns calls by Sydney think tank for changes to divorce laws
2 September 3AK

David Hicks
LIV discusses American Bar Association conference
2 September 3AK
7 September Sunday Age

Negligence laws
LIV warning on deadline for negligence law changes
3 September Geelong Advertiser

Delays in the courts
LIV discusses personal injury case
4 September Derryn Hinch program 3AW

Temporary judges
LIV comments on proposal for temporary judges for busy periods in court
8 September The Age

Debt and Credit
LIV discusses how to manage debt more effectively
9 September 3AK

PAUL CONROY is the 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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