Proctor : February 2019
19 PROCTOR | February 2019 Legal policy Focus on future law Setting the scene for an active year ahead, Queensland Law Society’s Legal Policy team reflects on some of the highlights of 2018. Report by Pip Harvey Ross. Pip Harvey Ross is a legal policy clerk with the Queensland Law Society Legal Policy Team. As well as making more than 220 written submissions to government, parliamentary committees and leading research bodies in 2018, the QLS Legal Policy Team engaged with some 150 stakeholders to discuss legal policy issues. Regular stakeholder engagements include a number of Queensland Courts groups such as the Court Users Reference Group, the Childrens Court Committee and the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal. Our participation in these forums allows QLS, as informed by its policy committee members, to provide the practitioner perspective throughout the policy and legislation development process. Public hearings are held as a part of the parliamentary inquiry process. They provide subject matter experts and interested parties with the opportunity to expand on their written submissions and to discuss inquiry issues with parliamentary committees in a public forum. In 2018, QLS was invited to appear at 20 of these public hearings to discuss a range of legal issues. In December, QLS representatives appeared at a public hearing before the parliamentary Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee on the Human Rights Bill 2018. At the hearing we discussed the practical implications if the legislation is passed by Parliament. In particular, the committee was interested to hear whether the Bill would negatively impact court resources and the speed of access to justice. We drew from the experience of similar legislation in Victoria, which did not see an increase or ‘flood’ of litigation, or an increase in the workload of judges due to that state’s human rights legislation. Consultation highlights In early 2018, QLS was invited to participate in the ‘Five yearly review of the Queensland workers’ compensation scheme’, conducted by Professor David Peetz of Griffith University. Our President and members of the Accident Compensation/Tort Law Committee met with Professor Peetz to discuss issues relevant to the workers’ compensation scheme on behalf of members. We also provided a written submission to the review, which noted that the scheme was operating well, but highlighted a few issues that should be addressed. The review report was completed in May 2018. Professor Peetz concurred that the scheme was operating well, but made a number of recommendations for improvement, some of which QLS had suggested. Following the report, the Office of Industrial Relations convened a stakeholder group to consider 16 recommendations from the report which would require legislative change. Representatives from QLS attended two meetings of this group to discuss the proposed amendments and how they could best be effected. Among these changes were proposals to include ‘gig economy workers’ in the scheme and to provide better and early rehabilitation to injured workers, including those who had sustained a psychiatric/psychological injury. QLS has supported these amendments and is eager to continue the consultation process this year, including reviewing the draft legislation. The extensive consultation process undertaken by the Legal Policy Team was highlighted during the inquiry on the Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2018. QLS considered the issues involved at length, including those raised by the Queensland Law Reform Commission (QLRC) review of termination of pregnancy laws, those directly associated with the Bill, and more broadly the wider issues associated with termination of pregnancy that have surfaced over several years. In 2012, we provided a letter of support to the Medico-Legal Society in response to its call for a review of termination laws in Queensland, and the Health and Disability Law Committee has been considering these laws in depth since 2017, prior to the QLRC inquiry. In January last year, following the referral of the issue to the QLRC, we began wider consultation with members, who provided considerable feedback. A comprehensive review of the associated issues was undertaken by expert practitioners who practise in areas relevant to the inquiry. In particular, the Health and Disability Law Committee, the Criminal Law Committee and the Domestic and Family Violence Committee assisted in compiling the QLS submissions to the QLRC inquiry and again in response to the Bill when it was introduced into Parliament in August last year. The QLS submissions responding to both the QLRC inquiry and to the Bill focused on the legal implications of the suggested law reform and policy issues, such as the legality of safe access zones and the clarification of definitions. We were pleased to receive considered feedback from member practitioners following calls for consultation in QLS Update, as well as from members of several policy committees. It was also pleasing to be invited to appear at the public hearing on the Bill in September last year to discuss the issues raised by our submission and to assist the parliamentary committee in determining its position on the Bill.