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Legal Profession Amendment Bill 2022

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 27 October 2022

Tags: Legislation

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I can also indicate that the Greens will be supporting this amendment bill to the Legal Profession Act. It is to clarify and provide national consistency for redress on matters of complaints about lawyers where currently, as the minister has outlined, as a result of the Burns v Corbett decision by the High Court, it might otherwise have to be dismissed if a person from one state makes a complaint about, in this instance, a Tasmanian lawyer.

That case, Burns v Corbett, made it very clear that federal diversity jurisdiction can only be exercised by a state court in which the Commonwealth has its judicial power vested, which in Tasmania are the Supreme and Magistrates courts but not the tribunal and board, as we have heard.

This has led to an obviously intolerable situation for people who may want or need to take a complaint to seek justice on a matter where both the Legal Profession Board and the disciplinary tribunal cannot lawfully exercise judicial power and make a decision in relation to that circumstance and it would be required to be dismissed. I cannot imagine what it would be like if I was trying to seek justice, and I assume it is the case that there is no other link - that is it, the end of the road.

Ms Archer - No, that case has basically been sitting there for quite some time. Not many, but -

Dr WOODRUFF - I do not know if you are aware of any, or the numbers, and whether as a result of this that they could go back and either be picked up or recommenced from the beginning. It is important.

I was not aware, and I guess most people were not aware, that the original jurisdiction of those powers stands with the High Court and it is only the High Court that can exercise its jurisdiction through the court of the state that is vested with that federal jurisdiction. What it will mean now is that it resolves this federal jurisdiction issue of people who are from different states, a lawyer in one state and a complainant in another state, and it provides some consistency with the existing framework for complaints to be made against the legal profession, within the legal profession, and the disciplinary framework that follows from that.

I did not have any other questions about that except on the matter of the complaints. The complaints can be not just from a person who has employed, or taken a lawyer for a case, but it could also be from a member of the profession about another member of the profession. Presumably, the Legal Profession Board also hears complaints from members of the profession of each other, or about each other's behaviour. It is not just from the clients of lawyers. There are also complaints from one member of the profession against another member, and I wonder if the minister is aware of any situations where it is not just from clients, but it is also from members of the profession to each other.

That is all I need to say on this matter, except to reinstate that the Greens very strongly stand up for a powerful democracy which rests in the separation of powers between the state and the justice system. Finding the solution to this problem is fantastic because it means that there is clarity and, for a country as geographically large but as small in population as we are, it is very important to have national consistency on this. It is certainly one law which is important to have harmonised national laws around. It is not appropriate everywhere, but in this instance, it is definitely appropriate.