THE MASS of legislation that rules our daily lives must be halted and reversed by a strong and independent legal profession, according to the new president of the peak body representing the national legal profession.
John North this week replaces outgoing Law Council of Australia president Stephen Southwood, whose time as president was cut short after he was elevated to Justice of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory on Monday.
In an interview with Lawyers Weekly, North said he would try and continue matters that were being progressed by Southwood. Most important, however, is the need to maintain a strong legal profession “in the face of global terrorism and the consequential expansion of the powers of executive government”.
“The Law Council of Australia must try and ensure that necessary checks and balances are maintained,” North said.
Emphasising he was “not being political” in his aims, North said his focus looked not only to the federal government, but to the states as well. “Governments use times of duress and pressure to limit our rights,” he said. “This applies to state and federal governments.”
North said that as a lawyer he has always campaigned that there are too many laws that restrict us. “Our daily life is full of laws — going to the beach, driving a car, paying tax, there seems to be no room left for common sense any more.” He said he hoped that a strong legal profession can “try and halt and eventually reverse this [over legislation]”.
“Rarely has Australian society so needed a strong, united and independent legal profession to fight for human rights and freedoms at all levels, both within Australia and the world at large,” North said.
The Law Council is also interested in the legal profession and its connection with Asia. And it is also seeking to complete the national model laws project. As well, North said he hopes to advance in his own right the rule of law issues such as human rights and “even the need for a Bill of Rights”.
Former president Stephen Southwood handed the presidency to Sydney and Dubbo-based solicitor North, who has been the Law Council’s president-elect since September and was president of the NSW Law Society in 2000. North said of his new position that he had “big shoes to fill at short notice”. He said he hopes to continue Southwood’s work in the areas of access to justice, the national profession and international law.