A HIGH COURT JUDGE has criticised state and federal parliamentary procedure for responding to law reform, saying government needs to smarten up if it is to keep pace with social and technological change.
High Court Justice Michael Kirby said last week that law reform proposals too often go to “the bottom of the ministerial and legislative pile”.
Speaking in Sydney at the launch of The Promise of Law Reform, a volume of essays from leading legal, political and academic figures around the world, Justice Kirby said the problem of how to secure governmental attention to law reform is an “institutional defect” that represents a “real weakness of the system of representative and accountable democracy as we practise it”.
Formerly foundation chairman of the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC), Justice Kirby has pioneered law reform philosophies and practices that are now considered standard operating procedure for law reform agencies internationally.
Law reform proposals “secure much less attention than the political ideas and personality and party schemes that dominate contemporary politics”, said Justice Kirby.
“Occasionally, law reform proposals are swiftly implemented. However, even areas in the most obvious need for attention, reform efforts sometimes lie fallow — not for reasons of political opposition but sheer indifference and institutional failure,” he said.
The Promise of Law Reform is edited by ALRC commissioner Brian Opeskin and ALRC president Professor Davis Weisbrot.