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Flashcards in Formal Law Reform Bodies Deck (12):
1

Formal law reform bodies

Organisations that are employed by the government to inform them of changes in society that may require a change in the law. Their aim is to give impartial advice and make recommendations that are practical and implementable.

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VLRC

The Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) came into operation on 6 April 2001. It is an independent, government-funded organisation. It was established to investigate areas of law in which the government feels there is a need for reform and to monitor and coordinate law reform activity in Victoria.

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The role of the VLRC

The main role is to undertake research and make recommendations for changes in the law on issues that are referred to the VLRC by the state attorney- general. The VLRC also has the power to recommend minor changes to the law without a reference from the attorney-general. The VLRC engages in community-wide consultation and debate, and advises the attorney-general on ways to improve and update Victorian law.

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The main aim of the VLRC

The VLRC’s main aim is to ensure that the legal system meets the needs and aspirations of the Victorian community. It is responsive to issues raised by lobby groups and individuals, and considers newly emerging rights and responsibilities.

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5 things the VLRC can do

• RECOMMENDATIONS MAJOR Make recommendations for law reform on matters referred to it by the attorney-general.
• RECOMMENDATIONS MINOR Make recommendations on minor legal issues of general community concern without a reference from the attorney general but have been brought to the VLRC’s notice by members of the public.
• SUGGESTIONS Suggest to the attorney-general that they refer a law in need of investigation to the VLRC. After consultation with various groups, the VLRC may suggest new references relating to
areas where change in the law would be desirable.
• EDUCATION It can educate the community on areas of law relevant to the VLRC’s work such as checking the effectiveness of laws.
• COORDINATION Monitor and coordinate law reform activity in Victoria. It works with other law reform bodies to ensure effective law reform in Victoria.

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What happens when Parliament receive a report from the VLRC

After receiving a report from the VLRC, parliament decides whether to implement the recommendations, either in whole or in part, which will then be incorporated into a Bill.

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3 strengths of the VLRC

EFFECTIVENESS the government has asked the VLRC to investigate an area and therefore the government is more likely to act on its report on the need for change
• GAUGE OPINION can gauge public opinion by receiving public submissions and holding seminars in which people can have their say
• COMPREHENSIVE INVESTIGATION is able to investigate an area comprehensively so the government can initiate a new law that covers a whole issue, such as the Abortion Law Reform Act 2008, which was the outcome from the VLRC abortion report

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3 weaknesses of the VLRC

RESTRICTIONS can only investigate issues referred to it by the government or minor issues that it can look into without a reference
• OBLIGATION there is no obligation on the part of the government to follow any of the recommendations made
• RESOURCES investigations can be time-consuming and costly

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Does the VLRC change the law

Once the VLRC has completed its report, The report containing its recommendations is given to the attorney general who tables the report in parliament within 14 days. The VLRC does not change the law. The VLRC makes recommendations to change the law, it is up to the parliament to change the law.

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VLRC Medicinal cannabis example

PETITIONS A range of petitions made the government realise that there was a problem with the current law regarding medicinal cannabis and that it could potentially save lives if it was legalised.
TERMS OF REFERENCE In December 2014 the attorney general gave the VLRC terms of reference asking them to review options regarding changes to laws on drugs.
EXPERTS They were required to appoint an expert panel and report no later than august 2015. The VLRC appointed two advisory committee to form the expert panel.
ISSUES PAPER,They released an issues paper that provided background information on the benefits and risks of using medicinal cannabis and the experience of other countries.
SUBMISSIONS In the issues paper they called for submissions. They received around 99 submissions from organisations such as the cancer council.
CONSULTATIONS They then consulted with a range of people and organisations including the department of health.
REPORT Finally, they delivered their report with 42 recommendations of changes in the law to allow the use of medicinal cannabis in exceptional circumstances.
RESULT The government agreed to most recommendations and the Access to Medicinal Cannabis Bill was passed in April 2016.

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‘Without the assistance of the Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC), the Victorian Parliament would be less able to make laws that reflect society’s values.’
To what extent do you agree? Give reasons for your answer.

INTRODUCTION The VLRC is an independent, government-funded organisation. It was established to investigate areas of law in which the government feels there is a need for reform and to monitor and coordinate law reform activity in Victoria.
CONTENTION Without the VLRC parliament would be less able to make Laws that reflect the values of the community. This is because the parliament has a range of roles such as scrutinising the actions of government and delegating some of its law-making power to subordinate bodies and checking any delegated legislation. This makes it very difficult to put as much time and effort into making sure Laws are made that reflect society's values.
ROLE OF VLRC This is why The VLRC undertakes,research and make recommendations for changes in the law on issues that are referred to it by the state attorney- general. The VLRC also has the power to recommend minor changes to the law without a reference from the attorney-general.
PROS The VLRC is able to ensure that the Victorian parliament makes laws that reflect society's values as they can gauge public opinion by receiving public submissions and holding seminars in which people can have their say. They also have to time to investigate an area comprehensively so the government can initiate a new law that covers a whole issue and reflects society's values.

NEGATIVES OF The Victorian government without the assistance of the VLRC would not be as effective in making Laws that reflect society's values. While it is true that Parliament is elected by the people they are representative of who have public confidence that they will be able to carry out their role as law-makers and therefore be in the best position to act in accordance with the views and values of the majority they are often restricted by time and conflicting views. The process of law- making through parliament is very time-consuming because it has to pass through three readings and debates in both houses. Parliament may be restricted in its law-making by the fact that there are strong conflicting views in the community regarding a particular issue, such as same-sex marriage. If both sides of the discussion have strong support, it is likely that the law will not be changed. For example, there are strong and conflicting views about legalising voluntary euthanasia, and as a result the law remains unchanged.

SUMMARY In summary, while the Victorian parliament is able to make Laws that reflect the needs of the community, it can do this much more effectively and efficiently with the assistance of the VLRC as they are able to spend much more time gauging public opinion and investigating an area of law.

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Purpose of formal reform bodies

Parliaments and politicians often lack the time and resources to undertake a thorough investigation of an issue and it is sometimes necessary to pass the investigation on to a formal law reform body. Their research is usually conducted as a result of a request from the government.

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