The existing structure of Queensland’s Law Reform Commission (QLRC) has limited the independent body’s capacity to manage more than one review of state laws at any one time, according to the commission’s chair.
QLRC Chair and eminent Supreme Court Justice Peter Applegarth AM has flagged the need for the State Government to increase resourcing of the commission’s “small” secretariat if it is to be expected to review more than one “large and complex review” of state laws at a time.
The QLRC’s 2021-22 annual report was tabled in State Parliament this week, with Justice Applegarth expressing sincere gratitude to the skilled and dedicated members of the secretariat for their diligent work to ensure the commission continued to produce the high quality and innovative work for which it is renowned.
However, he said: “The existing structure and resourcing of the Commission’s small Secretariat has limited the Commission’s capacity to conduct more than one review at a time.
“In recent years, we have completed a series of large and complex reviews in very short timeframes. This has placed undue demands on the staff of the Secretariat and members and often required the engagement of additional temporary staff to support the conduct of the reviews.”
The QLRC is an independent statutory body established under the Law Reform Commission Act 1968 and is charged with making recommendations for legal reform to the State Government.
The commission’s key statutory duties, as provided in section 10(3) of the Act, include duties to:
- undertake law reform reviews referred to it by the Attorney-General
- prepare and submit to the Attorney-General from time to time a proposed program of law reform reviews, for review and approval by the Attorney-General, and
- undertake any approved program of law reform reviews, subject to any variations made by the Attorney-General in terms of the proposed reviews or their order of priority.
The commission in recent years has been tasked with reviews of the state’s voluntary assisted dying legislation – which was enshrined in law last year – and changes toward the decriminalisation of the sex work industry.
“The reporting period ending 30 June 2022 covers work undertaken by the Commission, or key milestones that occurred, in respect of several reviews you have referred to the Commission,” Justice Applegarth said.
“On 27 August 2021, the Attorney-General asked us to conduct a review to recommend a framework for a decriminalised sex work industry in Queensland.
“This review also forms part of the program of law reform reviews you approved on 10 December 2021 and has been given priority in the Commission’s work program during the reporting period.
“We are pleased that you value the Commission’s contribution to the development of these important reforms.”
Justice Applegarth said the commission remained optimistic of meeting its remit moving forward after the State Government gave an undertaking to provide the commission with more resources.
The commission’s secretariat comprises the Director, the Assistant Director, three senior legal officers, a part-time commission secretary, a part-time administrative officer and a temporary administrative officer.