Queensland Law Society (QLS) has congratulated the Honourable Yvette D’Ath on her appointment as Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence.
In welcoming the returning Attorney-General, QLS took the opportunity to provide a snapshot of current priority areas in anticipation of the ongoing program of reform.
QLS acknowledged the work which is already underway and indicated it was looking forward to continuing to work with the Attorney-General’s Office and the Department of Justice and Attorney-General in the following areas:
- QLS acknowledged the work of the independent reviewer, the Honourable Michael Shanahan AM, in the Criminal Procedure Review and review of the Justices Act 1886 (Qld) (Justices Act). This historic review is welcomed by QLS. It is essential this project maintains momentum and that the amendments to the Justices Act be implemented.
- QLS welcomed the expansion of current Adult Restorative Justice Conferencing (ARJC) processes in the criminal law jurisdiction. QLS highlighted the need for the expansion to be underpinned by legislative codification, designed to entrench the principles of voluntary participation, accountability, prioritising the needs of the person harmed, safety and respect, confidentiality, transparency, an integrated justice response and clear governance. It must also include a significant increase in the allocation of funding and emphasis to the current ARJC processes, with a view to expanding the reach of the program beyond metropolitan Brisbane courts to rural, regional and remote areas in Queensland.
- QLS is supportive of the recommendations of the Inquiry into Forensic DNA Testing and welcomed an opportunity to continue consulting with the department to ensure the swift and effective implementation of those recommendations.
- QLS supported the continued work of implementing the recommendations contained in the Hear her voice and A call for change reports through meaningful consultation with stakeholders.
- QLS is pleased the Property Law Bill 2023 has been introduced following many years of work in reviewing the current legislation. It looks forward to working with the department on developing the regulations and seller disclosure forms which will support the bill’s reforms. QLS also reiterated its call for a transitional period for the profession of at least 12 months from passing the legislation to its commencement. This transitional period is recommended for the whole of the legislation, not only seller disclosure.
- QLS thanked the department for establishing the Community Titles Legislation Working Group and looks forward to continued involvement in its work.
- QLS welcomed progress on the critical review of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (Qld) (QCAT Act) review and looks forward to a timely government response and commitment to any subsequent recommendations for reform, including sufficient resource and budgetary allocations.
- In the meantime, QLS highlighted there is an urgent need for increased funding for the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) to support additional training of QCAT members in guardianship and administration matters.
- QLS would welcome the opportunity to meet with the Attorney-General and the department to discuss concerns in respect of our practitioners’ experiences in the guardianship jurisdiction of QCAT.
- QLS looks forward to the continued rollout of improved technology in the courts, particularly in regional courts.
- There are currently several proposed reforms to key information privacy and privacy-related legislation. While QLS strongly supports reform in this area, it believes it is premature to amend Queensland’s laws until after the Commonwealth’s Privacy Act review process has been completed. It looks forward to ongoing consultation with the department in relation to the proposed amendments upon completion of the review and anticipated federal reform implementation.
- QLS commended the department on the progress made on reforms to the incorporated associations legislation, including the introduction of requiring a grievance procedure in an incorporated association’s model rules. However, adequate funding will be required for the existing mediation service to support community organisations which need to access the department’s mediation services as a result of a dispute within an incorporated association. The service must also be resourced with qualified mediators with experience in the not-for-profit sector.
QLS also took the opportunity to continue to call for commitments to:
- A review of the access to civil justice system, with a view to increasing legal assistance sector funding for civil law matters.
- An increase in the hourly Legal Aid rates for preferred suppliers and family law report writers, and the institution of an annual review to take account of CPI and cost of business increases. This needs to be coupled with the creation of a discrete funding pool for Legal Aid preferred suppliers to increase the referral of work to law practices, with a particular emphasis on allocating funds to rural, regional and remote areas.
- Endorsement of a model national financial Enduring Power of Attorney law and developing initiatives for educating attorneys on their responsibilities.
- An increase in funding for QCAT in relation to guardianship administration and restrictive practice matters, including more training for QCAT members and supporting a more consistent approach by members.
- A nationally consistent approach to preventing and responding to elder abuse, and education and awareness about elder abuse.
- Updating the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules regarding probate matters and updating probate forms.
- Allowing electronic signing and remote witnessing of wills.