TASMANIA’S RECENT introduction of a controversial proposal to reform the state’s legal industry has been condemned by both the national and state legal professional associations.
The Law Council of Australia (LCA) argued the state government’s Legal Profession Amendment Bill 2004 would have detrimental effects for lawyers and consumers.
The Amendment Bill would remove the right of the Tasmanian legal profession to self-regulate, and place disciplinary proceedings in the hands of the Legal Profession Board.
As well, the changes to the Legal Professions Act 1993 would allow the Tasmanian A-G to hand pick a Legal Profession Board, which would be “judge and jury” over every aspect of the legal profession, the Law Council said.
The proposed changes would put Tasmania “out of step” with what is happening in other states and territories, Law Council president Bob Gotterson said.
“[It will] destroy the checks and balances in the regulatory framework of the legal profession and increase the cost of justice — making it harder for ordinary Tasmanians to see a lawyer.”
The LCA also claimed the new system would totally exclude the profession from the regulation process, was bad in principle and would not work in practice.
“The co-regulatory model long employed in all other Australian jurisdictions, and likewise in Tasmania, allows governments to provide the rules, the profession to embrace them and the courts to supervise the profession’s administration of them,” Gotterson said.
The new system was not the formula for an independent legal profession free from political interference, Gotterson said. “You can’t have one body making the rules and the same body enforcing them.”
Last week, the Law Society of Tasmania argued the Amendment Bill threatened the right of Tasmanians to an impartial and affordable system of justice.
Law Society president David Gunson said the justification for the Bill ignored the consequences for justice if the legal profession was completely regulated by a government-appointed board.
All states and territories had been working hard over the years to harmonise the regulation of the legal profession, Gotterson said. But, it was unfortunate that the “regressive Tasmanian legislation” was being debated at the same time as the release of the progressive draft national Bill.