Law Week 2017 Justice Journeys

Jamie

Seeing the second reading of a Bill in Parliament was one of the highlights of Jamie’s Justice Journey.

The Department’s Strategic Policy and Legal Services Division provides legal policy advice to the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, the Director-General and other State Government departments about areas for which the Attorney-General and department are responsible. Jamie spent two days with the team to get an overview of all things policy.

After entering the lofty State Law Building and passing through security, I made my way to the Strategic Policy and Legal Services area of the Department of Justice and Attorney-General. I was about to gain a unique insight into the diverse areas of law that the department administers.

Starting at Strategic Policy, I met with Brenna who explained the legislative drafting process for Bills within the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice’s portfolio. From policy development, to Cabinet’s granting of an ‘authority to prepare’ to the tabling of a Bill in Parliament, a lot of behind-the-scenes work takes place. The Strategic Policy team conducts exhaustive research and community consultation with the aim of creating evidence-based policy that sits in accordance with the community’s values.

Moving to the Legal Services Coordination Unit (LSCU), I met with Jill who described the litany of work the unit undertakes. The LSCU assists the Attorney-General by coordinating and monitoring the implementation of Cabinet-issued legal services directions including the model litigant principles, significant litigation directions and the whole-of-Government guidelines for responding to child sexual abuse. The LSCU also liaises with other Government agencies affected by coronial recommendations to coordinate the Government’s response with the objective of ensuring that preventable deaths do not occur in Queensland.

Back at Strategic Policy, I met Greg who explained the process of parliamentary committees and their important role in scrutinising legislation prior to its passage through the Legislative Assembly. The Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee generally conducts inquiries into all Bills introduced by the Attorney-General, including major Bills such as the Serious and Organised Crime Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 and the Crime Corruption and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2017. Greg, along with other members of Strategic Policy, appears in committee hearings to brief the committee on the purpose of the Bill and to answer questions the committee has concerning it, including those raised by stakeholders during hearings. When the committee releases its final report, the Government is required to respond promptly—a function that the Strategic Policy team undertakes diligently. This process requires immense amounts of preparation by the team.

Read the Justice Journey of student Rachel, who spent time with the Honourable Mark Ryan MP.

Luckily, a significant Bill recently completed by the team was scheduled for its second reading in Parliament that afternoon. Brenna and I watched the Second Reading speech of the Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Services and Minister for Corrective Services, the Hon Mark Ryan MP, and debates by the Members for Everton, Pine Rivers, Coomera and Currumbin. It was interesting to hear the Members’ perspectives on their roles in the committee process and the aspects of the Bill that were of particular significance to each Member.

At the Right to Information Unit, I received a primer on the day-to-day administrative requirements of the area and the sheer volume of content the unit must work through. A single request could result in the provision of thousands of sheets of paper from government agencies which must all be individually scanned, reviewed and, if necessary, redacted by the Right to Information team. Due to the number of concurrent requests that the area must process, it would be a nightmare to provide responses within the statutory deadline if the team was not so meticulously organised.

Overall, Strategic Policy and Legal Services has a large remit that varies tremendously. Everyone I spoke to came from a diverse background with movements from the private sector to government, intra-government movements from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services being a few examples. Many spoke of the ability to do many different things in a government job as allowing for personal growth. Exposure to such a wide range of tasks encourages and cultivates new skills, placing government positions in a place of interest for law graduates and graduands.