THE LEGAL profession and law in this country will refuse to be crippled by executive government threats about national security, the newly elected president of the Law Council of Australia (LCA), Stephen Southwood QC, announced this week.
Taking up his new role on the weekend, the new president said the legal profession must maintain its independence from the political sphere. Also, executive government will not be allowed to make unnecessary incursions on the legal principles, values and institutions that have thus far made Australia a safe and secure liberal democracy, he said.
As well as enhancing opportunities for Australian practitioners in Asia, as reported in Lawyers Weekly this week, this is “one of the most important challenges facing the legal profession”, Southwood said.
The LCA has made strong recommendations “in relation to the variety of legislation that has come through [concerning] national security”, Southwood said, and intends to continue to do so.
The LCA has commented upon anti terrorism bills one and two, as well as national security information criminal proceedings bills, which have not passed yet.
“We’ve made extensive submissions… to ensure basic legal principles are not done away with,” Southwood said. “This process will be an important ongoing activity for the Law Council.”
“We are going to have to remain vigilant so far as examining legislation, and take every opportunity to make submissions about legislation,” he said.
The LCA must maintain the rule of law “in the face of global terrorism and the consequential expansion of the powers of executive government.”
The LCA will try and ensure that necessary “checks and balances” are maintained on executive power.
“We must continue to have confidence in the integrity of our existing legal institutions, including our court system, and we must ensure that they are properly resources and supported,” he said.
The LCA will also continue its work in relation to the National Model Laws project, Southwood said. It will continue to reduce the insurance costs of lawyers, and protect common law rights and access to justice, he added.