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Law Council convenes meeting of Asia’s legal leaders


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9 August 2018

More than 65 delegates from some 15 countries across Asia took part in the 29th Presidents of Law Associations in Asia (POLA) Conference, hosted by the Law Council.

The two-day conference, Matching Rhetoric with Action, was held in Canberra and provided the legal leaders an opportunity to discuss the importance of the independence of the judiciary and legal profession, anti-corruption and transparency, business and human rights and the legal profession and inclusion and diversity in the legal profession.

Outcomes from the 29th meeting of POLA are recorded in the Conference Communique.

The rights of millions of our fellow citizens, as well as the stability and correct function of our liberal democratic systems – depends on our courage, and our resolve at this time, Law Council President Morry Bailes told delegates during his opening address.

“If we are not united in our commitment to prosecuting human rights – in a climate where human rights are under siege in many parts of the world – then democracy and the rule of law will be rendered very fragile indeed,” he said.

“We must continue to share views, and hold one another to account, as well as working to determine ways to improve conditions for vulnerable people all over our region.

“Upholding the fundamental values, the rights and freedoms that belong to all people, rests with us.

“Together we represent the rule of law, and now is not the time to become afraid or complacent – we must be bold and work together for the common good, it is the time for action and not more rhetoric.”

Delegates were informed of threats to the independence of the judiciary and legislation that seeks to expand ministerial powers in the Australian context, which attracted the Law Council’s vociferous opposition.

The imminent launch of the Law Council’s significant investigation into access to justice through the Justice Project and the devastating effects on the growing numbers of Australians who are unable to access justice, excluded from that system and therefore from equality before the law was also highlighted.

“This is not good enough – not for me, not for the 65,000 Australian lawyers I represent, not for the millions of vulnerable Australians who need our help,” Mr Bailes said.

“The Law Council is convinced that we need to value a just society –not merely one which keeps law and order. The values of equality, of democracy and justice underpin who we are as a nation. If those values are compromised, so are we.”

POLA was last held in Australia in 2005. This gathering, which is by invitation only, provides an annual forum for the leaders of bar associations from across the Asia region to exchange ideas and information, collaborate on issues of mutual interest and promote friendships.

Next year, POLA will be hosted by the All China Lawyers’ Association, and in 2020 by the Korean Bar Association.

The Law Council of Australia wishes to thank all who attended.

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