Victorian Attorney General Rob Hulls yesterday appointed that banking
industry favourite Colin Neave AM as the inaugural (part time) chair of
the Victorian Legal Services Board that will merge the current Legal
Practice Board and Legal Ombudsman officially in early December 2005
after a four year gestation.

Last week Hulls appointed Vic Marles (deputy chair of the
industry-based Telecommunications Ombudsman) as the first Legal Service
Commissioner that will report to Neave. Marles’ Labor credentials are
good and being the sister-in-law of Lisa Neville MLA didn’t hurt. Neave
will be comfortable with her as she, like him, has plenty of experience
at keeping industry bodies happy.

Assisting Neave on the Board will be Consumers Federation of Australia
(CFA) chair Carolyn Bond who, coincidentally, is also a board member on
the Banking Ombudsman Board. This has been a brilliant tactic of
Neave’s to ensure that the consumer movement never publicly critiques
industry ombudsman schemes. Most of the CFA executive, such as Bond,
receive board fees from the industry schemes and are thus bound by
director responsibilities. Pity about the consumer interest

One interesting side point with the new scheme is the fact that it
holds the purse strings to a number of Victorian legal bodies such as
the Victorian Law reform Commission. As it happens the current
Commissioner is Marcia Neave AO, Colin Neave’s former wife. That should
make for an interesting funding round meeting!

This all suggests that Hulls has seen how industry ombudsman schemes
have successfully neutered the radical edge of the consumer movement
and given the industry and government a safe ride. Hulls clearly wants
the legal profession to be invisible and unaccountable.

Peter Fray

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