Thursday, April 19, 2012

Reinstating Queen's Counsel

A barrister wearing the robes or Silk of a Queen's Counsel.

Australia is a constitutional monarchy, and with monarchy comes the symbols, titles and patronages that represent the monarchy or monarch, whether or not they directly link the monarchy or not.

Whether it’s the monarch’s coat of arms, the lion and unicorn aloft government buildings, the monarch’s portrait hanging for all to see in government and public buildings, or knighthoods bestowed by the monarch

These things are all part of the monarchy that Australia is a part of and has been a part of since it was first colonised by Britain.

Sadly, over the last 20 years, republicans that have risen to power have used the extent of their power either in government or just on a council level to remove and hide these symbols.

In effect, these people are removing parts of Australia’s traditions and some of Australia’s oldest national identity as a constitutional monarchy and its heritage that it inherited from Great Britain.

Which is why, even though it has little significance to the monarchy and restoring its many symbols, I believe that the title of ‘Queen's Counsel’ should be reinstated to Queen’s Counsel.

The major Commonwealth realms, Great Britain, Canada and New Zealand still retain the title of ‘Queen’s Counsel’, with New Zealand reinstating the title in 2010.

Australia still has these senior practitioners but under a new title called ‘Senior Counsel’, which is really the exact same thing and they even dress the same as the original Queen's Counsel.

The title of ‘Senior Counsel’, however, is only used in republics that were originally part of the British Empire and later Commonwealth realms but now a republic, like Africa, Hong Kong, Kenya, Singapore, etc.

Australia still being part of the monarchy should continue to use the titles that come with having the monarchy and not that of something that represent a republic.

That is not the only reason the title of QC should be reinstated in Australia.

When people go to a lawyer, it is more reassuring when you get someone with the prefix of QC at the end of their name, showing that they have hired a lawyer of a high standard.

Australia restoring the title of Queen Counsel will also put Australia back in line with the other Commonwealth realms that still use the title.

These are all good reasons to reinstate the title of Queen’s Counsel to Australia once again.

Looking at the most recent case where the title has just been reinstated in New Zealand you can see that the arguments for and against really would not be that different in Australia.

In New Zealand in 2010, the New Zealand government reinstated the title of Queen’s Counsel and ended the use of Senior Counsel.

This was met with wide support but the only objections to the reinstatement were that the title is too ‘colonial’, which from the start was a weak argument that was quickly defeated.

There was no other reason other than a few republican members of Parliament calling it colonial cringe,and then going on to ask if they could also reinstate finger less gloves and black suits for parliament.

The New Zealand republican MPs did not offer any real solid arguments for why the title should not be reinstated.

There is one good argument that the ‘silks’ selection process can be and at time is corrupt because attaining the rank of Queen's Counsel, known as 'taking silk’, is quite competitive.

This is true at times but like in New Zealand, Australia could think of a more secure way for barristers to be selected and appointed for the title.

That said, the reinstatement of the title ‘Queen’s Counsel’ in Australia will not only help with what people already perceive to be of high standard but also put Australia back in line with the other of Her Majesty’s realms.

And it is also in some respects restoring one of Australia’s longest traditions.