Needham urges Bar to look beyond QC debate
Newly-elected NSW Bar Council president Jane Needham SC has said the QC debate should not overshadow other challenges facing the Bar.
Needham (pictured), who has previously shown support for the retention of the current SC system, was re-elected unopposed last Thursday (13 November) despite an attempt by pro-QC campaigners to retain the three most senior executive positions on the Bar Council.
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Needham said that while the dispute over whether to reintroduce the QC post-nominal was currently front of mind for many members, other issues also deserved the full attention of the Bar Council.
She singled out the Bar’s continuing response to the Law Council of Australia’s National Attrition and Reengagement Study, the implications of a national profession, uniform practice rules and statutory regulatory functions.
“[These issues] will also take up time and require significant and concentrated effort,” she said.
Two other senior executive positions went to critics of the pro-QC campaign: Noel Hutley SC (senior vice-president) and Arthur Moses SC (junior vice-president). Moses, who was re-elected unopposed, is currently representing crown prosecutor Margaret Cunneen SC as she faces an ICAC probe into whether she intended to pervert the course of justice.
Despite their missing out on the three most senior executive roles, pro-QC candidates secured 12 out of 21 Bar Council positions, including treasurer Justin Hogan-Doran and honorary secretary Philippe Doyle Gray.
Jeffery Phillips SC, who launched a pro-QC ticket in October, told Lawyers Weekly that these 12 members were “all committed to giving people a choice between QC and SC”, and there were many others who weren’t named in the ticket who also support the campaign.
Phillips unsuccessfully challenged Hutley for the senior vice-president position.
Pro-QC sources have told Lawyers Weekly they are confident that, with a majority of supporters on the council, the motion to approach the government to seek to restore QC would go ahead.
One source also claimed that the pro-QC camp was not disheartened by Attorney-General Brad Hazzard’s comments that the QC debate had already been had and was not his highest priority; rather, they were encouraged by his comment that the issue was “open to discussion”.
A NSW Bar Council ballot earlier this week saw Needham attract the greatest number of votes (441) followed by Cunneen (387). Moses and David Bennett AC QC each gained 340 votes, with Phillips the fifth most popular candidate with 320 votes.
The Bar Council election attracted just over 1,170 votes.
There were 39 senior counsel nominees and 71 members of the junior bar who nominated for the 21 positions.