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A just and efficient system of law is so important that it cannot always be left to parliaments and judges to carry out this task. The courts must wait for the issues to come before them and often prefer to leave controversial issues to the politicians. Politicians are often reluctant to deal with controversial or difficult issues. It is for this reason that both the Commonwealth and States have bodies whose task is to keep the process of law-making under continual review, and recommend changes to the law where it is found not to be operating justly or efficiently. This task is generally carried out by bodies known as ‘Law Reform Commissions’.

The Australian Law Reform Commission is very active and has prepared many reports for law reform including alcohol, drugs and driving, human tissue transplants, defamation, child welfare, privacy, domestic violence, sentencing, product liability, the adoption of Aboriginal customary law, a uniform Criminal Code and a uniform Evidence Act. Uniform Evidence Act came into effect in several states, including Tasmania, which gives uniform law across Commonwealth and state jurisdictions.

Tasmania has the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute (TLRI), directed by Professor Kate Warner. Examples of proposals for State law reform are changes to the law in relation to intoxication and criminal responsibility, a Charter of Rights for Tasmania, sentencing, criminal liability of organizations, the establishment of a drug court pilot in Tasmania, criminal liability of drives who fall asleep causing motor accidents, and the law of easements in Tasmania. The TLRI continues to produce important work on criminal and civil law issues. Papers and media releases are accessible through the TLRI website.

Neither Law Reform Commissions or the TLRI can reform the law on their own. They will recommend reforms to the Attorney-General. Law reform can often be a slow process because of the different social and economic interests affected by proposed changes. Generally there must be solid community support for such proposed changes before the legislators in parliaments are prepared to implement them.

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