“The reforms clearly endanger the smaller states and the small law firms, especially in rural and urban areas,” Senator Barnett said.
Senator Barnett (Liberal from Tasmania) tabled letters in the Senate from Tasmanian Chief Justice Ewan Crawford and Tasmanian Law Society President, Graeme Jones.
Chief Justice Ewan Crawford labelled the proposals an ‘insult to the profession,’ calling on the Government to include greater representation from the legal profession.
Law Society of Tasmania President Graeme Jones said in his letter to Senator Barnett that he supports reform but is concerned about handing power to Attorneys-General.
“These changes threaten to compromise the independence of the legal profession and the judiciary.
“I am particularly concerned for smaller law firms, especially in regional and urban areas.
“Smaller law firms and those in regional and urban areas could effectively have no representation on the National Board.
“These changes come at a time when the presence of global law firms in our big cities is increasing. Their dominance is not in the national interest.
“The independence of the Judiciary is a pillar of our democracy, established in the constitution. These changes threaten to undermine this vital institution within our society.
“Just like the mining tax and just like the ETS, the Rudd Government has again demonstrated its arrogance and unwillingness to genuinely consult and listen to the interests of the smaller states, and rural and regional Australians,” said Senator Barnett.
Criticism of the draft legislation has also come from Western Australia:
The Liberal Western Australian State Attorney-General stated that he is “not presently inclined to support it in its current form”.
The Chief Justice of Western Australia Wayne Martin said “While the creation of a national system for the regulation of the legal profession is a worthy objective, the surrender of the independence of the profession to control by executive government is too high a price to pay for the achievement of that objective.”
The Law Society of Western Australia President Hylton Quail said “We will not give up independence and control of the profession to government, we will not agree to be disciplined from Canberra and we will not agree to Western Australian consumers paying more for legal services because the costs of practice increase”.