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Statutes Amendment (Attorney-General's Portfolio) Bill

14 May 2024

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (16:41): It will be no surprise to members of this place that the Greens are supportive of this bill. I must confess I am a republican. I know that will shock some members; I can see the looks of distress on their faces. The secret Green agenda for Australia to become a republic is on display here today.

I am a republican, but might I say this is actually also about modernising our legal profession. These are terms that have been used since the 1500s. Surely, 700 years later, rather than creating terms that hark back to a time when the responsibility of legal counsel was to serve the monarch, we should actually move towards titles that represent the role of these professionals to serve their clients. I really do not think the people who are seeking justice in our state care whether or not these people are referred to as KC or SC; they want to ensure they are getting the best support possible. But I think it does send the wrong message when we have these anachronistic titles from a bygone era.

I do think it is interesting, though, hearing some of the remarks from the Liberals in this chamber. They talk about this not being a priority, yet I note, looking at the Notice Paper, that there are more Liberal speakers on this matter than there are on any of the other important issues that the parliament is dealing with today. Indeed, there are more speakers on this matter than there are on the bill that we dealt with earlier relating to recruiting children to crime. There are more Liberal speakers on this bill than there are on the bail bill that we dealt with earlier.

When we are in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, what does the opposition spend their time on? When we are in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, the opposition chooses to spend their time in this place on this matter and give it significant focus—I should acknowledge mouse traps as well. But really, this is not the number one issue for the people in the broader community, despite the fact that the Liberals have given it such prominence. It is anachronistic, and it is time to change.

It is our understanding that the current process requires the minister to approve the nomination of a Senior Counsel to King's Counsel before it is sent to the Governor. Indeed, this was the model that was implemented when QCs and KCs were reinstated after 2019, after being abolished for 10 years. I note the submission of the Law Society and I respect the views of many people in our legal profession but they are wrong on this.

The Liberals have talked a lot about the need to protect our heritage. If they are serious about that, I urge them to in the future support the Greens' calls to protect our iconic heritage buildings rather than folding like a cheap suit when the Property Council comes out swinging, as we saw in this chamber just a few weeks ago. That would be the kind of meaningful support for our heritage buildings that the people of South Australia are looking for, not the sort of nonsense that the Liberals are latching onto in their quest for relevance.

There is one other thing I will say before concluding. I urge members—there was a point made about the separation of powers and I think it is important to note that the Chief Justice is removed from politics, and I think it is important that members of parliament and the broader profession respect that delineation. I think it is appropriate, of course, to criticise government policy, to engage in that debate, but I think we also need to respect the distinct role that the Chief Justice plays in our system. It is very important for the confidence of the broader community that that role be outside of politics, in my opinion. With that, I conclude my remarks.