1.7 In conducting its inquiry, the Committee has been asked to refer to the role and statutory responsibilities of the ALRC and the appropriate allocation of functions between the ALRC and other statutory agencies. These questions are closely related, and more broadly concern the crucial question of the value independent law reform agencies can bring to law reform and policy development in Australia.
1.8 The primary function and work of the ALRC is, in short, to inquire into and report on matters referred to it by the Attorney-General, with a view to reforming Commonwealth laws and harmonising Commonwealth, state and territory laws. The structure, expertise, reputation and history of the ALRC make it ideally suited to performing this function.
1.9 Law reform agencies such as the ALRC are not, of course, the only bodies responsible for developing policy. Government departments, Parliamentary committees, joint ministerial councils, statutory agencies, such as the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Productivity Commission, private consultants, academics and others all make vital contributions. However, a number of features of the ALRC distinguish it from other agencies and demonstrate why it is a crucial contributor to the health and growth of Australian law.
1.10 Law reform agencies such as the ALRC are not, of course, the only bodies responsible for developing policy, but a number of features of the ALRC distinguish it from other agencies and demonstrate why it is a vital contributor to the health and growth of Australian law. These features answer the question ‘why law reform commissions?’ and include the ALRC’s:
independence (from government, party politics, academic interests, special interest groups and other stakeholders);
broad generalist legal expertise;
authority and capacity to leverage relationships with key stakeholders;
distinguished consultative and research strategies;
dedicated experience in best practice law reform processes.
engagement with the international legal community;
contribution to regional developments in law reform;
role in educating and engaging the Australian community in law reform; and
contribution to other government inquiries and reports;
1.11 The ALRC will address these and other features of best practice law reform agencies in its next submission.