LawRight Newsletter – October 2021 – Law Reform Edition

STOP PRESS: Due to the easing of health restrictions, a small number of additional seats are available for the Public Interest Address on Monday, 25 October. Join us to hear from the Hon. Susan Kiefel AC, Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia and celebrate 20 years of pro bono through LawRight.

Register here before 9am Monday

Law Reform Edition 

LawRight pursues law and policy reforms that improve access to justice. This month we have been active in the media, research and legislative processes, on behalf of our clients.

Parole Board delays

LawRight continues to support prisoners impacted by Parole Board delays despite the introduction of a fourth Board. An amendment to extend decision-making requirements of the Board (from 120 days to 150 days) has been introduced in the Police Powers and Responsibilities and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 (Qld). This amendment will roll back a key outcome of the 2017 Sofronoff review and cause great difficulties for prisoners planning housing and income options in the community. We made a submission and will give oral evidence later this month.

Thanks to a secondment from new members DWF, our State Courts office has more capacity to be active in law reform responses.
View all our submissions on defamation law here

Defamation law changes 

20% of our State Court clients seek help with defamation proceedings and we have paid attention to this area of law for some time. July amendments to the Defamation Act 2005 (Qld) introduced major changes such as a new ‘serious harm’ element and a mandatory concerns notice process, most of which LawRight advocated for throughout the consultation process. The recent High Court decision in Voller confirmed that media companies maintaining public Facebook pages that encouraged and facilitated third-party comments were publishers of those comments. LawRight clients are often involved in proceedings because they have commented on or maintain public Facebook pages and groups and we ensure their perspective is heard in the reform process. Last month, we participated by invitation in a stakeholder roundtable for the Council of Attorneys-General’s second round of defamation law reform, which focused on the topic of the potential liability of ‘internet intermediaries’.
View our submissions on these matters here

Blue Card processes 

Since 2018, LawRight has assisted 253 people with Blue Card reviews at QCAT and this year we have worked with students from QUT to highlight our concerns with that process and its impact on work and training opportunities for already disadvantaged communities.  Early research data indicates that of 39 clients who applied for a QCAT review of their negative notice, 11 had the decision overturned, a process that mostly took two years or more. Nine elected not to continue with a review (for a range of reasons including lack of understanding or feeling overwhelmed by the process) and 16 still await a decision.

We recently made a submission on the Child Protection Reform and other Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 (Qld), which reflects some of these concerns and will also be commenting on the Working with Children (Indigenous Communities) Amendment Bill 2021 (Qld). 
Read our submission here

Toll fines  

Our Community and Health Justice Partnerships assist many people with excessive and unfair fines debts. Managing Lawyer Steve Grace spoke to ABC news about our concerns with toll fines, including those accumulated by ex-partners driving their partner’s car repeatedly through a toll point.
Read the article here: Drivers risk losing vehicles as Queensland claws back $150m in fines for unpaid road tolls – ABC News 

DV survivor seeking assistance 

The Guardian recently reported on our client “Lillian”, who speaks limited English and endured years of domestic violence. When Lillian called police after she had been injured, the police spoke only to her husband, who said our client was the perpetrator, and this description was subsequently conveyed to the treating hospital.

When Lillian sought financial assistance for her injuries, Victim Assist Qld (VAQ) refused to accept that she was the victim.

LawRight pro bono and staff lawyers helped Lillian apply for a QCAT review of VAQ’s decision and self-represent at a directions hearing. With an opinion from pro bono barrister Sean Russell, pro bono representation from Fuller & White and assistance through our Disbursement Fund, QCAT heard the matter on the papers and ordered that VAQ reconsider their decision.
Read the full story here

And what about Afghan refugees? 

LawRight is supporting the strong pro bono response to the needs of the Afghan community by collaborating with the Refugee and Immigration Legal Service (RAILS).  We have volunteered three senior staff to supervise pro bono initiatives at RAILS.