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Academic says law reform in Australia is not keeping pace with changes in society

RICHARD PALFREYMAN: ... Professor of Law has slammed law reform in Australia, saying it's not keeping pace with changes in society. Professor Adrian Bradbrook will detail his criticisms in his inaugural lecture at the University of Adelaide tomorrow. Peter Rapp asked him about possible alternatives to courts.

ADRIAN BRADBROOK: Well, there are a number of different alternatives which have been adopted over the years. One is the use of tribunals - commercial, arbitration, mediation. All these alternative methods are designed to bypass the problems which have occurred with the courts, problems such as cost delays, intimidatory atmosphere many people feel in going to courts, and also the fact that the judiciary in many cases are not specialists in the areas they're deciding, unlike the members of tribunals or arbitration panels.

PETER RAPP: But can justice be dispensed in tribunals and the like as well as in courts?

ADRIAN BRADBROOK: In many cases better. People get much quicker access to the courts. They have their cases decided by people who are specialists in those particular areas in which the dispute occurs.

PETER RAPP: And you say much more could be done to make State laws uniform?

ADRIAN BRADBROOK: Yes, a lot more could be done. We have eight different jurisdictions around Australia - six States and two Territories. In many cases the parliamentarians are just re-inventing the wheel at the time when they go through their own separate considerations as to the need for law reform in particular areas.

PETER RAPP: Well, you say current differences create confusion and ultimately benefit only the legal profession. The legal profession would be a major impediment to law reform along the lines you're suggesting, wouldn't it?

ADRIAN BRADBROOK: There are a number of vested interests in the legal profession. I think there is increasing recognition, though, amongst lawyers of the need to have these alternative forms of dispute resolution. In fact, lawyers are going through their own training in many firms as to negotiation settlement techniques and the use of mediation and arbitration. So there is not uniform hostility amongst the legal profession these days.

PETER RAPP: Does what you say raise the argument of abolishing the States altogether?

ADRIAN BRADBROOK: Oh, I don't think anybody's going to go that far. It's just that there are good reasons why there have to be States. All that people are suggesting these days is that the States act in concert at the time when it's appropriate to do so, and don't unnecessarily add to costs and waste their own time by constantly reconsidering each other's decisions.

RICHARD PALFREYMAN: Law professor, Adrian Bradbrook in Adelaide.