The following article was published in the Law Institute Journal in May 2007.
The VLRC’s new chair is due to begin next month, while some of the VLRC’s existing projects are coming to an end.
The Victorian government has appointed University of Newcastle professor of law Neil Rees as the new full-time Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) chair.
Professor Rees has taught at the University of Newcastle for the past 15 years and was the law school’s foundation dean from 1991–1999.
He has served as a part-time commissioner on the NSW Law Reform Commission and helped found the Springvale, Kingsford and Newcastle Community Legal Centres.
His past appointments in Victoria include Mental Health Review Board president and Psychosurgery Review Board chair.
His research interests include equal opportunity law, administrative law, employment law, and law and medicine.
Attorney-General Rob Hulls made the announcement in February but Prof Rees will not take up his position until 1 June.
The Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) and Adoption Project has closed and the Review of the Bail Act is drawing to a close.
The VLRC gave the ART and Adoption final report to the Attorney-General at the end of March, while the Bail report is due this month.
Once he has the reports, the Attorney-General has 14 sitting days of Parliament to table them.
The Civil Justice Project is continuing, with a reporting deadline of 4 September.
Consultations are still being held and research into issues, such as legal costs, are ongoing.
Full-time commissioner in charge of the project, Dr Peter Cashman, has spoken about civil justice reform at meetings and conferences, including functions held by the Law Institute of Victoria, Victorian Bar, Queensland Bar Association and Australian Lawyers Alliance.
The forthcoming report will provide an overview of how the civil justice system could be reformed and will contain recommendations to guide stage two of the project.
Priority areas for reform include: setting overriding standards of conduct for all participants in the process, case management, disclosure obligations, alternative dispute resolution, expert witnesses, self-represented litigants, class actions, costs, specific technical problems and mechanisms for ongoing review and reform.
Surveillance in public places
The Surveillance in Public Places project is in its consultation phase, with nearly 30 in-depth roundtable discussions already held.
These discussions bring together people from like organisations, or with similar interests, to outline how surveillance practices in their area are currently used and regulated.
The VLRC also participated in an Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) privacy forum in Melbourne in February.
Once the consultation phase is over, policy advisers will complete any outstanding research tasks before beginning to write the consultation paper, which is due to be released by the end of this year.
Community law reform
The VLRC is continuing to follow up suggestions by members of the community for minor amendments to the law.
Extensive preparatory work has been completed on a project looking at how the state’s different laws treat the users of assistance animals such as guide dogs.
Work will continue on this project with the aim of publishing a research paper.
Work is also being done on a suggestion to investigate the law governing public housing review decisions.
The VLRC’s major project references come from the Attorney-General and topics for projects are decided by the Attorney-General and Department of Justice, in consultation with the VLRC.