The NSW Law Society has been caught up in a stoush with some of its members who are unhappy that it’s taken a public stance in favour of marriage equality, with articles in The Sydney Morning Herald yesterday and The Australian today covering calls for president Pauline Wright to resign over the issue. But just where are the calls coming from? Robin Speed is quoted in both papers, of tax advisory firm Speed and Stracey Lawyers and founder of the Rule of Law Institute, with a letter to Wright saying she had “no right to pretend that you represent the profession on this issue”. The Rule of Law Institute sounds pretty fancy, but what is it?
Some Crikey readers might be familiar with the name Speed and Stracey Lawyers — we covered them in 2015 when they shared a phone number with the Family Office Institute, one of few organisations to support the government in winding back transparency measures for private companies with revenue over $100 million. As we reported at the time, it was unclear who (if anyone) the Family Office Institute represented.
Now it’s the Rule of Law Institute that is making its name known, and again, it’s not clear who is represented. There’s some big names on the board — including David Lowy, former NSW director of public prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery and University of Queensland Emeritus Professor Geoffrey Walker. Former ABC chairman James Spigelman is the organisation’s patron.
There’s also Malcolm Stewart and Ben Giles — both staff at Speed and Stracey lawyers. The Rule of Law Institute is connected to the Magna Carta Institute (they have combined annual reports with financial info here) — which is sponsored by Speed and Stracey Lawyers. The annual reports list income from membership fees and donations but don’t list who is actually a member.
When the Family Office Institute responded to claims it didn’t represent anyone in 2015, the institute released a statement, including this reference to the Macquarie Dictionary:
“The Institute has as part of its name the word ‘Institute’. That word is defined in The Macquarie Dictionary and there is no suggestion that it means an organisation with members, let alone a substantial number of members. It would be a different matter if the word ‘Association’ was included in the name.”
Robin Speed has given Pauline Wright until 4pm on Friday to resign from her position, as he claims that she has falsely given the impression that all 29,000 solicitors in NSW support marriage equality.