Amending the unfair Motor Accidents Injuries Bill, and speeches to commence the legal year

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8 February 2019

It is of some comfort that the ACT Greens have recognised that aspects of the proposed Motor Accidents Injuries Bill will operate unfairly. They have called on the government to amend it and to provide the “guidelines” (which are to date invisible) before the legislation is introduced into the Assembly.
The proposed Bill will drastically reduce compensation to injured motorists, and contains provisions denying procedural fairness. The Bill attempts to prevent injured people from engaging lawyers to assist them in dealing with this complex legislation, while allowing insurers to engage lawyers to argue the case against the injured. The cynical side of this is that the insurers’ costs of engaging lawyers to defeat the claims of injured motorists is included in the compulsory third party insurance premiums which are paid by all motorists.
With the imminent introduction of the Bill into the Assembly it is a cause of considerable concern to the Society that the blatant unfairness in the proposed system has not been resolved. We face the prospect of having legislation put in place that severely affects people who become injured in a motor vehicle accident. That could be any one of us at any time.
Moving to a more hopeful topic, last week the Supreme Court conducted a ceremony to mark the Commencement of the New Legal Year and the Opening of the New Supreme Court Building.
The Chief Justice expressed the Court’s appreciation in overcoming building delays and having the “marvellous new building” finally completed and occupied. She said that the architecture reflects Canberra’s natural environment which is directly visible and referenced in the natural timber and undulating ceilings, which mirror the hills surrounding the City. Most importantly, she said, the building says that that our community recognises the importance of the rule of law and the judicial arm of government; and that the community values tradition but also looks confidently to the future.
I was honoured to address the Court on behalf of our 2,600 members to renew our commitment to the ethical and social responsibilities of the ACT profession. The new building, with its hugely improved functionality, its large public spaces, and courtrooms full of natural light, cannot do other than impress the parties appearing before it of the importance and dignity of the occasion, and the seriousness with which our community treats justice and the rule of law. The new court gives the impression of being a bright place of dignity, calm, and thoughtfulness, where legal issues will be given careful and just consideration.
We hope to arrange familiarisation tours of the new court complex in the coming months, and I will advise members when we have confirmed details.
Chris Donohue President, ACT Law Society