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UF Won't Back 'Plundering' Of Law Fidelity Fund

Media Statement
For immediate release
Wednesday, 9 March 2005

Smith: UF won't back 'plundering' of law fidelity fund

United Future will withdraw support for the Lawyers and Conveyancers Bill unless the Government backs away from the "legalised plundering" of the Law Society's $2 million fidelity fund, the party's justice spokesman, Murray Smith, said today.

He said that the Bill is almost universally regarded as an "overcooked" and poorly drafted piece of legislation that has been "floating around for well over 10 years".

However United Future's main concern was the plundering of the fidelity fund for the Law Society's general purposes against the wishes of a large proportion of practicing lawyers, Mr Smith said.

"The transfer of the money from a fund set up to protect the public, to the coffers of what will become a voluntary professional organisation is an outrage," he said.

Mr Smith said he had surveyed every law firm in the country and found that only 10% of respondents agreed with the Bill's approach, which is backed by both the Government and the Law Society. Some 81% or respondents supported a Untied Future amendment that would require the issue to be decided by a referendum of all lawyers.

A second survey found that 75% of lawyers opposed the Bill in its current format.

Mr Smith also slammed the legislation as "utterly over-prescriptive", with its 390 clauses, comparing it to the guiding legislation for accountants (24 clauses), engineers (77 clauses) and architects at 45 clauses.

Ends.

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