ATTORNEY-GENERAL Philip Ruddock travelled through India last week, spreading the message of co-operative legal services and harmonised national laws.
Speaking before an audience at Delhi University, Ruddock used similarities between the Australian and Indian federal governments as a basis on which to argue for strengthened bilateral links — and one way to secure those bonds would be through open legal markets.
“The advantages of more open legal markets are obvious. They stimulate international commercial activity and strengthen the international competitiveness of a country’s legal profession,” Ruddock said.
“Commercial lawyers and law firms of India and Australia, as well as the business communities of both countries, all stand to benefit.”
While discussing Australia’s ongoing need to harmonise laws, the A-G raised the nation’s regulation of personal property securities as an example of an ailing system of laws riddled with inefficiency, pointing to more than 70 state, territory and Commonwealth statutes that govern the area.
“The net effect is to limit the benefits of registration because of cross-jurisdictional red tape. The situation is extremely unsatisfactory in a modern national economy and manifestly illogical when set against economic reality,” he said.
The solution lies in consultation with the state and territory Attorneys-General, Ruddock said, with the view of enacting “a single register along the lines of the one that has been operating in New Zealand since 1999”.
Delay in reforming the law will continue to unnecessarily increase costs for business and slow the economy, Ruddock said. It was for this reason, among others, that the A-G flagged the possibility of the states making a specific referral of power to the Commonwealth, to overcome its lack of constitutionally prescribed power for personal property securities.
The A-G’s department has been working with the Joint Australia-India Consultative Committee on Legal Services (JAICCOLS), which Ruddock said is backed by the Bar Council of India and the Minister of Commerce and Industry. Both the president and the secretary of the Bar Council of India were extended an invitation on behalf of Tim Bugg, president of the Law Council of Australia, to attend the Australian Legal Convention in Sydney in March.