15 April 2011

ALRC Review

The Senate Legal & Constitutional Affairs Committee has released the report [PDF] of its inquiry into the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC), featuring a quote from the submission by this blog's author.

The Committee's recommendations are that -
Recommendation 1: the Australian Government restore the ALRC's budget cuts for the period 2010-11 to 2013-14 as a matter of urgency.

Recommendation 2: the ALRC Act be amended to provide for a minimum of two standing, fixed-term (not inquiry-specific), full-time commissioners.

Recommendation 3: an additional full-time commissioner be appointed, for each additional inquiry referred to the ALRC, in circumstances where the ALRC already has two or more ongoing inquiries.

Recommendation 4: the ALRC's public information and education services program be resumed immediately.

Recommendation 5: the ALRC be provided with all necessary resources to enable it to continue to travel to undertake face-to-face consultations as part of its inquiry processes.
The committee concludes that -
The ALRC is critically important to the development of legal policy in Australia. It has a proud history of undertaking important reviews and inquiries into key areas of law and making significant recommendations to unify and improve Australia's laws. The ALRC's high quality of work cannot continue on a shoestring budget.

In order to maintain this important organisation, the government must provide the ALRC with the necessary funds to enable it to have a full complement of qualified staff, including full-time commissioners; to be accommodated in premises that cater to the nature of the ALRC's work; to provide a comprehensive public information and education program; and to allow the ALRC to travel to undertake extensive consultations for the purposes of its inquiries.
The dissenting report from the Government senators states that -
Government Senators consider that the Australian Government strongly supports the work of the ALRC. As Mr Wilkins stated at the first public hearing:
The government regards the work of the [ALRC] as important to a vibrant and sustainable legal system...[T]he [ALRC] is highly regarded for the way it goes about its work, including the quality of its research and its emphasis on consultation.
The changes to the ALRC's structure introduced by the FFLA Act will improve the ALRC's flexibility to respond to circumstances as required, and will enhance the ALRC's ability to undertake expert analysis through access to subject-matter expert commissioners for specific inquiries. Government Senators also believe that the ALRC is adequately resourced to undertake its important functions, particularly in light of the Attorney-General Department's ongoing commitment to assist the ALRC and ensure that it is adequately resourced.