APRIL 2002

Number 5


With the issue of this Newsletter, we have achieved at long last our aim of having a Newsletter at least once every six months, an achievement which we would hope to improve upon or at least maintain in the future. The next issue will therefore come out no later than October or November this year.

Our congratulations go to Kim Cull, a New South Wales Government Lawyer and Chair of the Government Solicitors Committee of the Law Society of New South Wales, which is an Institutional member of the Association. It has just come to our notice that Kim is currently also President of that Law Society. This is a singular honour for a public sector lawyer in many jurisdictions where private sector colleagues usually take the high offices. We wish her well during her year in office and will hope to see her in Melbourne in 2003.

Much of what is in this newsletter will be familiar to those of you who have recently visited the Association web site at www.capsl.org but some issues are new and others are dealt with more fully or brought up to date. A number of challenges are posed and on some issues views or assistance are sought.

We hope you will find what follows to be of interest. Comments or suggestions will always be welcomed by the Secretary and given careful consideration. Contributions for the web site and future Newsletters would be even better!


The following note has been provided by the Law Institute of Victoria.

The Commonwealth Lawyers Association and the Law Council of Australia are hoping for a large registration of delegates for the 13th Commonwealth Law Conference to be held in Melbourne between 13-17 April 2003. The triennial conference of the CLA is to be conducted for the first time for many years in Australia in conjunction with the Law Council Australia's Legal Convention.

Autumn sees Melbourne at its best in terms of weather, sporting and cultural pursuits and general ambience. The Australian hosts are keen to welcome a large delegation of overseas lawyers from throughout the Commonwealth and are planning a conference with topical and challenging business sessions combined with first class entertainment and networking opportunities. The organising committee is consulting widely in relation to subjects for discussion within the conference program and expects shortly to be able to announce the identities of high profile keynote speakers.

It is expected that the conference will be held in conjunction with meetings or gatherings of several other groups. The Commonwealth Association of Public Sector Lawyers plan a meeting to coincide with the conference [see below for further information] and it is hoped that there may be a meeting of Commonwealth Attorneys-General. Discussions are taking place with the Australian Corporate Lawyers Association and the Australian Bar Association with a view to participation. There will also be meetings of bar leaders and members of the judiciary.

For further information about the conference or to be included on the conference database and receive regular information bulletins please contact the Conference Managers:

MCi International, P O Box 7404, St Kilda Road, Melbourne 3004, Victoria, Australia Telephone +61 3 9820 9115, Fax + 61 3 9820 3581, Email: mailto:comlaw@mcigroup.com; Web site: http://www.mcigroup.com/commonwealthlaw2003.


Plans for our involvement in the Conference are now developing under the direction of our Chairman who is working closely with the Conference Organising Committee. The present intention is to hold a one day Seminar for Public Sector Lawyers on Sunday 13 April, the day before the start of the Conference proper, a formula that proved to be very successful in Vancouver in 1996.We also still hope to play an active role in the Conference Programme itself. The Association General Meeting will probably take place at the conclusion of the Seminar on the Sunday thus avoiding the need for delegates to choose between the meeting and an interesting Conference session. We were criticised for arranging matters thus in Kuala Lumpur in 1999.

Our Chairman reports in detail on his progress so far as follows:

"Planning is well under way for the Commonwealth Law Conference in Melbourne and the CAPSL meeting which is being organised at the same time next April. The current plan is for essentially social activities for the Conference delegates on Sunday April 13 with the technical sessions commencing on Monday 14 April and running through to Thursday 17 April. Our plan is to have a 1 day Seminar of CAPSL on the Sunday. This will be somewhere within the Melbourne Central Business District and probably at the main CLA conference venue. I am also negotiating with the team putting together the main program for the CLA conference to see if CAPSL can have a place on the main program.  It is not yet apparent if there will be sufficient room.

I have identified three major themes for the CAPSL seminar at this stage: public-private partnerships whereby public infrastructure is established with the use of private capital; legal issues in outsourcing government services; ethics for public sector lawyers.

I will also be organising a lunch or dinner (or possibly both) for CAPSL members so there will be ample opportunity for you to meet with your public sector colleagues from around the world to discuss issues of mutual interest.  One or two minor themes are still being developed.  It is not too late to make suggestions and I would gratefully receive these.  My contact details are set out below. 

In relation to the main Conference, I was invited to attend a recent meeting of the Papers' Committee.  Whilst it is too early to be able to give much detail, I can say that there is a very comprehensive program planned and a number of speakers of international renown have been approached and agreed to present papers.  Up to 2,000 delegates and accompanying persons are expected to attend and without doubt it will be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, international conferences to be held in 2003. A huge technology information and trade show will be run in conjunction with the Conference.

Melbourne has an excellent reputation for hosting international conferences.  I was involved as part of the host committee organising the 1994 International Bar Association conference in Melbourne which was an extraordinarily successful conference.  April is autumn in Melbourne and many people regard it as the absolute best season of the year.  Usually reasonably stable weather with cool crisp nights followed by clear sunny days.  Several days this month have had temperatures around the 25 degree C mark and above.  First-class hotel accommodation is available at modest cost by most international standards and the number and quality of restaurants and other entertainment venues are amongst the best in the world.  It may be a long way for those travelling from Canada and Europe but I can assure you it is well worth the effort.

Please fell free to contact me with suggestions for the CAPSL meeting or any questions that you may have in relation to the CAPSL Seminar or the Conference itself. You can reach me at mailto:james.syme@vgso.vic.gov.au"

The Conference promises to be a great event and the best yet for Public Sector Lawyers. So make a note of the dates in your diaries now and try and organise your business and holiday arrangements around it. More details will follow in due course and will be posted on the Association web site just as soon as they are available.


As those of you who have visited the new web site periodically will know, I have so far managed to update it on a regular monthly basis. Its content is gradually increasing but there is plenty of scope for contributions from individual members which would help to make it more interesting.

Phase 2 of the site's development, which will provide a member only password protected site, is meanwhile on hol until the membership base has further developed and more interest has been shown in such a development. This will be an issue which we can discuss in Melbourne.


We are glad to be able to report a steady growth, if not yet a dramatic increase, in the number members, both Individual and Institutional, since the issue of our last newsletter in November 2001. Currently we have 75 Individual members from 24 separate jurisdictions and 19 Institutional members from 14 separate jurisdictions.

The drive for new members remains the current key task of the Secretary who in that context has had the opportunity over the last six months to address in London a meeting of Senior Officers of Commonwealth Law Ministries and a management seminar of Commonwealth Public Sector Lawyers. Both have resulted in a number of applications for membership, individual and institutional, and a follow up exercise will shortly be undertaken in the hope of generating more such applications.

New Individual members since last November came from: Australia (5), Bermuda (2), England (3) Guyana (1), Jamaica (1), Jersey (1), Mauritius (1), Namibia (1), New Zealand (2), South Africa (1), Turks & Caicos Islands (1) and Zambia (1). New Institutional members are: Crown Law Tasmania, Government Solicitor's Office Victoria, Crown Solicitor's Office South Australia, Attorney General's Office Jamaica, Attorney General's Chambers British Virgin Islands, Government Legal Service St Vincent and The Grenadines, Solicitor General's Office Mauritius, North West Province Legal Service South Africa and The Institute for Municipal Administration for South Africa (IMASA).

An unexpected application for membership, particularly from a country not so far represented among the Association's membership, makes the Secretary' s day. So cheer him up by keeping the applications rolling in so that we can claim with even greater legitimacy to be representative of the Commonwealth's public sector lawyers as a whole.

South Africa

One welcome development has been the awakening of interest in CAPSL within South Africa and the registration as Institutional members of IMASA, the professional organisation in that country representing municipal lawyers, and of the North West Province Government Legal Service. Kobus Erasmus, the Legal Advisor to the Madiberg Local Municipality in the North West Province, writes as follows:

"In South Africa, legal advisors or municipal lawyers normally form part of the administrative section of a municipality and execute legal as well as certain administrative duties. The Institute of Municipal Administration for South Africa (IMASA) acts as the parent body for all these lawyers and to assist all our members we have a very active Legal and Drafting Committee of which I am the current chairperson. IMASA would therefore welcome the opportunity to become an Institutional Member of CAPSL and to exchange information and ideas with (CAPSL). I think we can learn a lot from one another and use this exchange process to provide a better service to our members and more importantly to our employers."

Kobus, who has also joined as an Individual member, said that we were welcome to quote from his letter as it was his hope that his enthusiasm - 'I really believe in the objectives of CAPSL!' - will encourage other members to join CAPSL.

CAPSL was conceived initially as a vehicle for contact between local authority lawyers but has understandably developed as predominately an Association of and for Government lawyers as very few other Commonwealth jurisdictions have many, if any, local authority lawyers. The principle exception in this respect is the UK which has a particularly strong local government legal tradition, and it is to be hoped that the Local Government Group of England & Wales, an Institutional member and funder of CAPSL since the outset, will be able to develop strong links with their colleagues in South Africa. Indeed any other jurisdictions, such as New Zealand, where there are local authorities with their own in-house lawyers may like to identify themselves. Kobus would be pleased to hear from you ( mailto: rassie@ananzi.co.za ), as indeed would also the Secretary. So there is another challenge!


Perhaps the least satisfactory aspect of the Association's development so far has been the seeming unwillingness of Government Legal Services throughout the Commonwealth to sign up for Institutional membership and to provide a contact point, details of the services they provide and the number of lawyers they each employ. The establishment of such a data base was identified at the last General Meeting in Kuala Lumpur as a priority and so the slow progress in this respect is disappointing.

The reasons for this unwillingness are not obvious as we have taken an inclusive rather than a restrictive approach to the task. We have in consequence amended the initial design of the web site to enable us to cope on the site with more than one jurisdiction within any one country, so far only required by Australia, and to cope with more than one office or organisation within any one jurisdiction which early experience has demonstrated to be an absolute necessity.

If anyone reading this Newsletter can throw any light on the reasons for the current position, the Secretary would be pleased to hear from you. It would, however, be even better if you could take steps to get the appropriate officer within your Government Legal Service to sign up with the Association without further delay. It is very simple to do on line through the web site. Alternatively an approach to the Secretary will provide such further advice or information as may be required.


We do not wish to spend time unnecessarily at our General Meeting in Melbourne discussing yet again Constitutional issues: we will undoubtedly have more important and pressing issues deserving debate. However, we will probably need at least to revisit the definition of Member in the light of recent experience in dealing with membership applications.

Institutional members

When the Constitution was drafted, the thinking was that there would be at most one Institutional member for each separate jurisdiction, probably the Committee of the relevant Bar Council or Law Society that represented the interests of public sector lawyers in that jurisdiction. A little more thought, easy with hindsight, would have demonstrated that such an approach was untenable, not least in England and Wales where there are several bodies with distinct interests in such lawyers and even within the Government Legal Service a number of different elements none of whose lawyers are seemingly represented formally within the Law Society or Bar Council. The adoption of an inclusive approach to applications for institutional membership, notwithstanding the precise terms of the Constitution, is undoubtedly the right one at this stage of the Association's development. It has for instance enabled us to register as an Institutional member the Commonwealth Secretariat Legal Division, on whose support, advice and assistance we continue of necessity to rely.

The public/private sector divide

The Constitution was drafted sufficiently widely so as to embrace not just employed public sector lawyers but also their private practice or academic colleagues with a significant involvement or interest in public sector law and its practice. This was in recognition of the changes that were then afoot with public sector offices increasingly making use of their private sector colleagues in the delivery of legal services to their client employers, a trend which has developed considerably in the last few years in many jurisdictions in different ways. This has led to greater movement both ways between the two sectors. Our Chairman, after a life time in private practice, is now a government lawyer and two other active public sector members, one a Canadian and the other an Australian, have moved into the private sector. We perhaps need to consider whether all such members, public or private sector, should have equal status within the Association or whether we need to differentiate between them in some way to protect the original employed sector ethos of the Association.

Non Commonwealth public sector lawyers

A third strand, perhaps a rather more arguable one, is the possible admission to the Association, in some form of Associate membership, of non Commonwealth employed public sector lawyers. Through the Secretary, the Association has had until recently an involvement in the IBA and its Committee 15 - Government Law. However, the Secretary, following consultations with a number of lawyers involved with that Committee, resigned as it was quite apparent that we were getting no value for our annual subscription. There has not even been a Committee Newsletter since May 2000 and there is seemingly little likelihood of one in the foreseeable future. In short the IBA, at least at the centre of the organistaion, currently gives the impression of being disinterested in the public sector lawyer (although it has recently agreed to provide on their new web site a direct link to ours for which we are grateful) and in consequence does nothing of any real interest for the vast majority of them. The situation may change in the future but meanwhile maybe we could offer some kind of home to those non Commonwealth employed public sector lawyers who might otherwise have looked to the IBA.

The Secretay would be very pleased if we could have some reaction to the ideas outlined above, whether negative or positive, as it will assist us in formulating any proposals on this topic for submission to the General Meeting in Melbourne.


Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon launched the first ever Commonwealth Local Government Handbook at Marlborough House on 12 March saying "This is a very useful reference for anyone working in or with local government. It gives people an opportunity to see innovarions and how hurdles, often the same in different countries, have been overcome."

The Commonwealth Local Government Handbook 2002, published by the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF), profiles the local government system in nine Commonwealth countries and provides case studies of innovative reforms in local government structures and services in eight. The case studies include performance management in Australia; public-private partnerships in South Africa; universal postal voting in New Zealand; enhancing citizen participation in the UK; reserved Council seats for women in India; the introduction of executive mayors in Zimbabwe; and the District Assemblies Common Fund in Ghana.

Introducing the Handbook, CGLF Chair Len Duvall said: "As local government strives to improve and implement good practice, practitioners and policy makers in all spheres of government relating to local government require ideas. [This Handbook], our first major research publication, is aimed at bringing them such new ideas."


The Changing Face of International Co-operation in Criminal Matters in the 21st Century.

This Commonwealth Secretariat Conference will take place at Christ Church College, Oxford, UK on 27-30 August 2002. The Conference will provide an opportunity for the sharing of ideas, information and experiences in the realm of international co-operation, within the Commonwealth and beyond, in combating crime - terrorism, corruption, cyber crime and transnational organised crime. The aim is to consider progress and pitfalls and identify best practice and ways forward for the future. it should be of interest to Government and International Organisation officials, to lawyers and to academics who are involved in the development, administration and enforcement in this topical area of law. Further information can be obtained direct from the Commonwealth Secretariat mailto:k.prost@commonwealth.int

Reconstructing 'The Public Interest' in a Globalising World: Business, the Professions and the Public Sector.

This, the Biennial Conference of the International Institute for Public Ethics of Griffiths University, will run at the Sheraton Hotel, Brisbane, 4th - 7th October 2002. The programme is designed to be of particular interest to professionals involved in the integrity regimes of public and private organisations, members of ethics committees, ethics and integrity officers and practitioners of governance. Further information may be obtained from Mrs Susan Lockwood-Lee, Administration Officer of the Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance at the University, by email mailto:S.Lockwood-Lee@mailbox.gu.edu.au .

CJDR 24 April 2002

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