President’s Report – December
Annual General Meeting
The Society’s Annual General Meeting was held on Tuesday, 27 October 2015 at Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) premises in the QV1 Building in Perth. Thank you to all members who were in attendance and HSF for again allowing the Society to host its AGM at their premises. The Society relies heavily on the enthusiasm and expertise of its members in order to fulfil its mission of being the voice of the legal profession in Western Australia. I look forward to your continued support of the Society in the coming year and beyond.
The 2014/15 Annual Report and Financial Statements are now available to be viewed online. Please visit lawsocietywa.asn.au/annual-reports.
Security at the Courts
As many of you are aware, the Courts in Perth recently increased their security measures. This change affected secondary security screening. The Hon Chief Justice Wayne Martin AC advised the Law Society of those intended changes and the Society promptly advised members via the usual alert mechanism – Friday Facts – on 25 September.
Following the implementation of those measures the Society received numerous complaints about the operation of those measures including: who was subject to secondary screening and who was not; the removal of clothing in front of clients; the way in which the new measurers were implemented with some security staff implementing the same measurers differently in different courts; and the delays at the Central Law Courts and District Courts because of only one of the 2 security entry points being in operation.
The Chief Justice has since temporarily withdrawn the measurers whilst there is a further review and consultation process. I met with His Honour on 11 November to discuss the concerns raised by our members and to discuss the Chief Justice’s correspondence with the Society on the point. Options as to how the issues might be addressed were discussed and the Society is presently considering whether any follow up response at this stage is required.
The Society will continue to liaise with the Chief Justice about the procedures and how both the concerns raised by our members can be addressed and security can properly do its job in protecting the public, the staff at the Courts and us – the members of the profession.
Letter to WA Minister for Health – compensable patients and medical claims by hospitals
The Society has written to the Hon Dr Kim Hames MLA, Minister for Health, regarding compensable patients and medical claims by hospitals. By way of background, public hospital fees for compensable and motor vehicle third party insurance patients in Western Australia are regulated by the Department of Health under the Hospitals and Health Services Act 1927. The Hospitals (Services Charges for Compensable Patients) Amendment Determination (No.2) 2014 (Determination) sets out the fees that can be charged by hospitals for patients who are due to receive compensation settlements.
The Society’s has expressed concern that:
- the Department of Health has not implemented any transparent or proper procedure for the recovery of monies under the Determination;
- the current manner of recovering monies from compensable patients who have received treatment from public hospitals may give rise to inequities; and
- the mechanism in place may lead to avoidant behaviours (with failure to notify of potential compensation) ultimately reducing the revenue recovered by the Health Corporate Network.
Reform of remote communities in Western Australia
The Society has written to the Hon Terry Redman MLA, Minister for Regional Development, Lands and Minister Assisting the Minister for State Development, and the Hon Helen Morton MLC, Minister for Mental Health, Disability Services and Child Protection, regarding proposed reform of remote communities in Western Australia.
The Society has asked the Western Australian Government to ensure it works with Indigenous peoples to develop a detailed consultation framework and evaluation process which complies with Australia’s international human rights obligations, including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
It is the Society’s view that a regional plan devised in consultation with Indigenous peoples provides the best prospect of reducing levels of incarceration and other avoidable interactions of Indigenous peoples within the criminal justice system. The Society has stated that it would be pleased to comment on any proposal in relation to Australia’s international human rights obligations as the consultation framework is developed.
Law Council of Australia – Legal Education Discussion Paper
At October’s meeting, the Society’s Council approved a submission to the Law Council of Australia, containing the Society’s feedback on the Law Council’s Discussion Paper on Legal Education in Australia. The Law Council had sought comment from its Constituent Bodies in order to gain a greater understanding of a number of legal education issues.
The Society provided feedback to the Law Council on a range of legal education topics including:
- the content and types of Australian law degrees;
- practical legal training courses and supervised workplace training;
- admission requirements in Australia;
- the gathering of statistics on law graduates and the transition of graduates to employment;
- the process for foreign lawyers to practice in Australia; and
- recognition of Australian qualifications in overseas jurisdictions.
The Law Council has suggested that hosting a symposium would present an opportunity to consider these legal education matters in depth.
Law Council of Australia – generic legal services market access request and transnational practice network
The Society has endorsed a document produced by the Law Council of Australia, entitled ‘generic legal services market access request’. The purpose of the document is to assist Australia’s trade negotiators and other stakeholders engaged in advancing the interests of Australian lawyers and legal services providers internationally.
The document requests the right for Australian legal services providers to:
- establish a commercial presence (through branch office or other legal presence with a right to establish one or more commercial presences as provided to local lawyers) and, where a commercial presence has been established, the option to use the firm name used in Australia respecting local customs or usage in the host country;
- provide legal services covering the laws of multiple jurisdictions in respect of which the Australian legal service provider or employees of the Australian legal service provider are qualified to advise;
- have an option to enter into commercial association with local lawyers and law firms, with the freedom to negotiate fee and profit sharing arrangements;
- provide legal services on a fly-in/fly-out basis, without residency or registration requirements;
- arrange secondments and similar exchange programmes to and from the host country; and
- prepare and appear in arbitrations, conciliations and mediations.
In order to help pursue access for Australian lawyers to international markets, the Law Council has proposed the establishment of a ‘transnational practice network’ to be chaired by Arjuna Nadaraja, Director, Transnational Division of the Law Council.
The network is to provide a mechanism to:
- share transnational practice and market access information between the Law Council and constituent bodies;
- consult members of the Australian legal profession about transnational practice issues; and
- jointly develop initiatives to advance the international interests of Australian lawyers.
Best wishes to all members of the Society for a safe and enjoyable break spent with family, friends and colleagues.