Page 6094 - Week 18 - Thursday, 12 December 1991

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Debate resumed from 5 December 1991, on motion by Mr Connolly:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

MR STEFANIAK (6.43): This Bill, as the Attorney said, is broken down into three main areas and, I understand, has the support of the Law Society, the governing body that regulates legal practitioners in the ACT. The Bill makes a number of necessary updates and reforms to the Legal Practitioners Act, which used to be the Legal Practitioners Ordinance.

One of those relates to disciplinary matters. It is sad that occasionally those procedures have to be used. I heard on the news today that a legal practitioner was struck off for misconduct. It is a small legal fraternity here in Canberra and, when someone does transgress, those of us in the profession usually know the people concerned. It is sad; nevertheless the profession's standards are, by necessity, very exacting.

Accordingly, the rules and laws governing the profession and its conduct have to be very exacting. Indeed, for the slightest impropriety, the penalties are probably far greater than they would be for other walks of life and in other areas of the law. That is because of the importance of the role a solicitor or legal practitioner plays in relation to his or her relationship with the client. It is very important that a client can be assured of total propriety by the solicitor in handling his or her affairs.

The Bill makes a number of necessary amendments to the area of discipline in the profession, together with a couple of other areas the Attorney mentions. The Bill has the support of the Law Society and accordingly, having gone through it, Mr Speaker, there is no reason why it should not also have the support of the Liberal Party, which it does.

MR COLLAERY (6.45): I feel compelled to speak on the matter as a person who is subject to the provisions of this Act. I was just looking at the self-government Act, Mr Speaker, to make sure that I did not have a conflict of interest. Mr Speaker, at the Law Society luncheon yesterday the voluntary service of members on these disciplinary committees was recorded by the president, Mr Russell Miller. I think the community is well served, despite the general perception of lawyers, by more than 130 members of the Law Society in the Territory who serve voluntarily on Law Society committees. A further like number serve at the Law Society's Legal Advice Bureau, which was opened early this year.

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