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Changing the Law

Contributed by Hannah Lee and current to March 2022

Changing the law is not an activity exclusively reserved for parliamentarians and judges. The Australian Law Reform Commission and community activism both play significant roles in changing the law.

The Australian Law Reform Commission is a federal agency which conducts research and consultations on behalf of the Attorney-General. It then makes recommendations to the Attorney-General about whether laws need to change and, if so, how. The purpose of the Australian Law Reform Commission is to review Australia’s laws to ensure that all Australians have continuing access to justice.

Community activism also plays a role in changing the law. This is because activism can bring about a change in community values. Community values or expectations, can be motivators for parliamentarians to engage in law reform with a view to achieving political success.

Community groups, political activists and businesses all engage in lobbying to ensure that law reforms are beneficial to their respective interests. These interests are diverse. Current law reform campaigns include: ending mandatory detention, increasing funding for community legal centres, decreasing commercial regulation, banning halal-certified foods, stopping amendment to the ACT Compulsory Third Party insurance schedule and obtaining a constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians. The ACT government maintains a register of political lobbyists on its website.

Some groups will donate money to political parties with a view to asserting their interests. Significant political donations must be declared by all federally-registered political parties. The donations are published on the register of political donations.

Anyone can contribute to community activism by donating money or time to a cause or by sharing material on social media. Anyone can also contact their ACT Legislative Assembly Member or their Federal Member to discuss any laws about which they are concerned or would like to see changed.

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