The federal Attorney General has announced plans to review who provides legal advice to the government, at the best price, as part of a major review of legal services and the courts.
“I will look closely and critically, as other Attorneys have, to see if our own Government legal services are set up properly, and appropriately to get the best advice at the best price,” Attorney General Nicola Roxon said on Saturday.
Her comments came after the Government received the Skehill Review, which was commissioned to investigate the operations of small and medium sized agencies in the Attorney-General’s portfolio.
The Attorney said the review offers her the opportunity to see what improvements can or should be made to legal services and courts nationally.
Roxon said she intends to look at the creation of a Military Court, as well as legislation on procedural matters such as suppression orders, vexatious proceedings, and strengthening the Federal Court’s powers to deal with discovery.
The Attorney said she will look at introducing legislation to “provide a clear, accountable and effective system for handling complaints about federal judicial officers”.
Also, 20 years on from Mabo, the Attorney General said she would look critically at what next steps need to be taken to speed up the resolution of native title matters before the courts.
She said she expects consideration of the Skehill report to resolve, “once and for all, and quickly, the clear future and remit of the Federal Court, Family Court, and Federal Magistrates Court, giving all the certainty and clarity of purpose they need”.
Roxon said Australia’s federal courts and legal services are not always satisfying consumer.
“I want a justice system in this country that is geared as much to the one-off litigant seeking redress, as it is for our largest corporate players who might see the courts just as part of doing business,” she said.
She argued that this has become increasingly difficult as lawyers become more specialised.
“How a small business finds the right lawyer in a tenancy or copyright matter, let alone the fact that legal aid is now less often a component of every lawyers’ work and more often specialised in by fewer and fewer lawyers is part of this challenge,” she said.
“Of course, this is partly why my predecessor successfully argued for a big injection of funds, with our Government now investing over $1.3 billion in legal assistance programs over a four year period until June 2014.”
The Attorney has not given any more detail on the review of who provides legal advice to the Government.