August 29, 2016  |  

Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Amendment Bill 2016

Mr CARROLL (Niddrie) — It is my pleasure to rise and speak briefly on the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Amendment Bill 2016. Can I thank the opposition for its support on this legislation. This is important legislation that goes to the heart of internationalisation of the legal services market in Australia. Both New South Wales and Victoria have passed legislation on the uniform law. It is about making sure that Victoria and Australia are equipped for a 21st century legal profession.

The technical amendments in this legislation will go a long way to ensuring that our legislation gives certainty to lawyers, particularly foreign lawyers that are practising in Victoria because when they come to Australia the red tape will be reduced. Even more so the duplication of red tape that often a foreign lawyer will encounter when coming to practice in Australia, in particular in Victoria and New South Wales, will be removed. More and more we are seeing the globalisation of law firms. We are seeing law firms now on the Australian Stock Exchange. They are in the business of providing legal services, but it is a strong market. The services industry, and the legal services industry in particular, is a market that Victoria needs to be part of.

Just recently I had the pleasure to meet with Gabrielle Upton, the New South Wales Attorney‑General, and I have got to commend her for her working relationship with the Victorian Attorney‑General. Really New South Wales and Victoria are leading the way on the uniform bill. There will be a role for our state law institutes, whether it be the Law Society of New South Wales or the Law Institute of Victoria, to do their bit in terms of lobbying their governments and lobbying the Queensland government and the government of South Australia, who at the moment do have their reservations about joining the uniform legal profession. Until we can get the lobbying efforts from their institutes — that is what they have made very loud and clear — to the attorneys‑general in those respective jurisdictions, they will be very much committed to making sure that they do sign up to the uniform law.

It is legislation that probably should have been done many, many years ago. With more and more globalisation the internationalisation of our legal services market has seen the need to ensure that we operate at the 21st century level, where we do reduce red tape and where we ensure that our legal profession is strong. But also it comes down to the disciplinary action to ensure that if you are a foreign lawyer operating in Victoria, you do need to abide by our rules and our jurisdictions. If there is a finding of misconduct and if a report has been made, the Victorian legal services commissioner must have the power to investigate. If you are a foreign lawyer working in Victoria, those powers are there, and this legislation will go a long way to addressing those concerns. I commend the bill to the house.

Business interrupted under sessional orders.

Debate resumed.

Mr CARROLL (Niddrie) — It is my pleasure to continue my contribution to the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Amendment Bill 2016. I want to state in the remaining part of my contribution that the uniform law is the basis for an interjurisdictional scheme for the regulation of the Australian legal profession, designed and implemented in recognition of the fact that, while each state does have its own legal profession, many Australian lawyers and law firms practice nationally and internationally. This uniform law is intended to simplify regulations across state borders and to protect consumers, particularly through new legal cost disclosure requirements. The member for Hawthorn in his contribution acknowledged the work of the member for Box Hill in this regard. I think this has been the challenge for state attorneys general right across Australia, particularly in Victoria and New South Wales, which have, in many respects, been leading the way.

A lot of consultation has gone into this legislation. The Legal Services Council, the commissioner for uniform legal services regulation, the Victorian Legal Services Board and its commissioner, as well as the New South Wales legal services commissioner, were all consulted. They all support the proposals in this bill to get the simplification right to ensure that our legal profession in Victoria is 21st century and that we appreciate and acknowledge that we have an internationalised and globalised legal services market.

I just want to acknowledge the work of the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) and go back to 2014, when the member for Box Hill was bringing in the first tranche of the legislation. I think it commenced six months later in 2015. In the cover story headed ‘A uniform to fit everyone — National profession law reform explained’, written by Nahum Mushin, an adjunct professor of law at Monash University, in the October 2014 issue of the Law Institute Journal, the LIV acknowledged the groundbreaking legislation that this is and why it is important. I just want to read a section of the conclusion. I quote:

There are those who decry the creation of a national profession. This article does not propound that view. Nevertheless, it will be evident that the achievement of that worthy aim is at the price of a complicated and somewhat convoluted piece of legislation … It is to be hoped that the creation of the structure for administration of the act and the enactment of the inevitably large volume of rules on many topics will assist with comprehension of this most important policy objective.

So, going right back, both sides of this chamber support this legislation. It has had a long lead time. The member for Box Hill and the current Attorney General have put lots of work into this. There is a long way to go.

As I said earlier, I had the honour of representing the Victorian attorney at a recent meeting of attorneys general in New Zealand where the New South Wales Attorney General, Gabrielle Upton, and I met with the other attorneys. They very much see this as a noble cause, but they were also really comprehensive in their view that they need to get their own law institutes on side to ensure that they can then make the necessary changes in the consultation process to ensure they can go forward and also adopt the uniform bill so we have a uniform market right across Australia that is appreciative of and applicable with the globalisation of law firms. As a result, lawyers from overseas coming to practice in Australia will abide by our rules, the regulation will be less burdensome and there will be less red tape. This is a noble cause in the 21st century.

I thank the opposition for its support. I did hear the member for Hawthorn’s contribution. I welcome some of the comments he made, and I am sure as we go further through the consultation process this will probably not be the last piece of legislation we see on the uniform bill. I know it is a key subject in the universities at the moment as part of general educational development tests and bachelor of law courses. I think it is great that Victoria is leading the way with New South Wales, and I commend the bill to the house.