Proctor : April 2019
17 PROCTOR | April 2019 IN THE LEAD-UP TO THE 2019 FEDERAL ELECTION, QUEENSLAND LAW SOCIETY HAS LOBBIED THE FEDERAL POLITICAL PARTIES TO CONSIDER AND RESPOND TO PRIORITY ISSUES HIGHLIGHTED IN OUR 2019 CALL TO PARTIES STATEMENT. Each election, QLS releases a Call to Parties Statement following extensive consultation with members, including the experts in our 26 policy committees. In the past, we have received commitments from the major parties to consider and reform key legal and social justice issues in response to the statement. We have advocated on 16 legal issues in our 2019 statement, including: Access to justice To make the federal justice system more accessible, the community must receive appropriate advice and assistance, regardless of how they enter the justice system. The statement calls for a commitment to increase the per capita level of Federal Government Legal Aid and legal assistance sector funding to restore equality between the state and Commonwealth shares of funding by the 2020- 2021 financial year, in addition to the assurance that the funding will be certain and sustainable long-term. QLS also calls for a commitment to remove existing clauses in community legal centre contracts that restrict engagement in advocacy activities and to refrain from imposing such restrictions in future contracts. Court, tribunal and commission funding In order to promote access to, and the administration of justice, federal courts, commissions and tribunals must be appropriately funded. Appropriately resourcing the Federal Court of Australia, the Federal Circuit Court, the Family Court of Australia and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal involves appointing a sufficient number of judges and members, promptly filling judicial vacancies and providing adequate infrastructure and resourcing. The statement calls on the Government to allow legal representation as of right in federal commissions and tribunals to benefit each party that is appearing and to help matters proceed as expeditiously as possible. First Nations People advancement Through the QLS Reconciliation Action Plan, QLS has committed to setting out practical plans of action to assist in creating social change and building relationships and respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. This includes promoting the advancement of First Nations People through advocacy. The statement calls for real and tangible progress to close the gap in all areas of inequality and to remove the entrenched levels of disadvantage for First Nations People and communities within the context of legal and justice outcomes. In particular, the statement calls for meaningful and evidence-based strategies to address the disparate imprisonment rates and the rates of violence against First Nations People. Family law dispute resolution The statement calls for the simplification of the family law system by creating a single specialist court, with a single set of rules and single set of forms, and with a particular focus on the appointment of judicial officers with specialised family law experience. QLS calls on the Federal Government to assist the chronically overburdened court by increasing legal assistance sector funding to streamline family law matters. The statement also highlights the importance of improving children’s experience in court proceedings by ensuring their views are heard and understood. This will require additional funding for experts, including independent children’s lawyers and family consultants, and further training of family law professionals and judicial officers on relevant matters such as domestic violence and child development. National plan to combat elder abuse Attention is urgently required to respond to elder abuse and its direct impacts in the community. The prevalence of elder abuse is increasingly recognised in the community and in various institutional settings such as hospitals, retirement villages and aged care facilities. The Call to Parties Statement calls on the Federal Government to implement the National Plan to Combat Elder Abuse, as recommended in the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) report, ‘Elder Abuse – A National Legal Response’. This would include the implementation of priority recommendations as determined in the report, as well as the provision of adequate funding for community legal centres to assist people suffering elder abuse, and implementing policies which support the autonomy and agency of older people, irrespective of their decision-making ability. Preserving privacy QLS considers that the preservation of privacy and personal information is essential to civil society. It is necessary that the law be developed to keep pace with technological advancements, and we call for a commitment to investigate the creation of a statutory framework providing greater protection of the privacy of Australians and prohibiting the invasion of privacy and misuse of private information. Harmonisation of federal and state/territory privacy laws is also needed. Pip Harvey Ross is a QLS legal policy clerk. This article was prepared under the supervision of solicitors on the QLS Legal Policy Team. Call to parties THE 16 AREAS OF REFORM FLAGGED IN THE CALL TO PARTIES STATEMENT ARE: 1. Access to Justice 2. Court, tribunal and commission funding 3. First Nations People advancement 4. Family law dispute resolution 5. Consumer protection and protection for employees 6. Strong and sustainable compensation schemes 7. Assistance for businesses, including law firms 8. Regional and professional development 9. Engagement with the not-for-profit sector 10. Royal commissions of inquiry 11. National plan to combat elder abuse 12. Independence of the Australian Law Reform Commission 13. Commonwealth law reform processes 14. Review of the Corporations Act 2001 15. Preserving the integrity of our justice system 16. Preserving privacy. These items form part of the Society’s advocacy platforms for 2019. The complete statement is available at qls.com.au/fedelection QLS members interested in these or other issues are encouraged to contact their local member. 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