ALA president Tony Kerin congratulated Australia’s first female Attorney-General on initiating a series of “firsts” during her 12 months as the Crown’s first law officer. “She has every reason to leave satisfied she’s made a number of achievements in the role,” he told Lawyers Weekly in the wake of Roxon’s resignation on Saturday (2 February).
Kerin credited Roxon with driving the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), which he claimed will provide much-needed reform for the disability sector. The scheme is still in the consultation phase, but Kerin is confident that Mark Dreyfus QC, who is replacing Roxon, will be an equally strong advocate of the initiative.
“We are sorry to lose [Roxon] mid stream, but I’m sure we’ll be able to work well with the new Attorney-General to ensure the NDIS comes to fruition,” said Kerin.
A low point of Roxon’s career, according to Kerin, was the highly-criticised proposal to extend the reach of anti-discrimination laws to prohibit conduct that offends, insults or intimidates.
“The way the draft [Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination] Bill was worded has shown some flaws,” he said, clarifying that the ALA supports the consolidation of federal discrimination laws under one piece of legislation.
Kerin believes Dreyfus, whose support of free speech has been well-publicised, will bring a fresh approach to Roxon’s draft legislation. But he also claimed the Bill won’t be “watered down” under the new Attorney-General.
Dreyfus is highly regarded among the legal fraternity in Victoria, according to Kerin and the president of the Law Council of Australia, Joseph Catanzariti. Publically, however, Dreyfus is most well-known for describing Tony Abbott’s campaign against the carbon tax as Nazi propaganda and allegedly calling Sophie Mirabella from the Liberal Party a “bitch” during a debate on the carbon tax.
Kerin believes the role of Attorney-General will lift Dreyfus’ public profile.
“His role has now changed dramatically, distinct from any other portfolio, and the past will be in the past, I suspect,” said Kerin.
Dreyfus became a barrister in 1987 and was appointed a Queen’s Counsel in Victoria in 1999. He entered federal politics as the member for Isaacs in 2007.
Former Attorney-General Robert McClelland, Roxon’s predecessor, will also be quitting politics at the 2013 federal election.