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National profession imminent, but hurdles remain

National profession imminent, but hurdles remain

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) plans to implement a national profession. But Victoria, at least, questions whether the mammoth task can be achieved within the year.

THE Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has agreed on a plan to achieve national regulation of the Australian legal profession. 

The news, reported last night on The New Lawyer online, will see the regulation of the legal profession streamlined, overhauling the currently complex system in which different practices apply in different jurisdictions. 

Under the plans, draft legislation providing uniform laws to regulate the profession will be prepared for consideration by COAG within 12 months. 

Federal Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, will appoint a specialist taskforce to make recommendations and prepare the draft legislation. The taskforce will be advised by a consultative group, also appointed by the Attorney. 

Welcoming the long-coming news, Michael Brett Young, chief executive officer of the Law Institute of Victoria, told The New Lawyer this is a “great step forward”. But the head of the Victorian legal profession was also hesitant to say a national profession has virtually arrived. 

“I wouldn’t say were finally there but this is a great step forward to actually get the support. It’s great to have a taskforce that can move it forward. And we welcome the consultative group, which we would hope we would have some input into … We think it will be very good for the profession,” Brett Young said.

But hurdles to a national profession still remain, Brett Young said. He said a model needed to be established very quickly, and that challenges may exist in determining how it will be regulated at a national level. “It may not be something easy to achieve immediately because of the different ways the regulation is funded in each state,” he said. 

Brett Young said that if a national regulation cannot be found straight away, state regulators should at least agree to the same rules, “so once you get a national regulatory body you can pick up what’s in each of the states and drop them”. 

“So if you work in Victoria and you go to New South Wales, you know exactly what your obligations are because they will be the same.” 

The draft legislation should move forward as quickly as possible, Brett Young said. “We’d like to see a model that also allows the quick implementation of the legislation once it’s agreed to.”

The states will help drive unified regulation to ensure a “true national regulation model” can be achieved, Brett Young said. 

“My only question is whether the ideal of the true national regulation model can be achieved in the first 12 months. We’d like it to be but, if it can’t, we think there is a two step process to face. We’d like the states to agree on a model that’s consistent.” 

See yesterday’s breaking news about the national profession announcement here.

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