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4. Profiles

Stephen Rivers-McCombs
Parliamentary Counsel

Stephen Rivers-McCombs
Two years as an administrative decision-maker at the National Native Title Tribunal in Australia, eight months as a legal contractor at the Office of Treaty Settlements, drafter since 2014

I was attracted to drafting because I have always enjoyed the process of breaking down complex ideas and expressing them in a written form that can be understood easily. Turning government policy into legislation certainly involves this sort of work, but the role is also much more diverse.

I am a member of the Resources and Treaty team, which means that I tend to work on legislation in the Treaty settlement area, and on subjects relating to agriculture, natural resources, and conservation. However, Parliamentary Counsel also have the opportunity to work across the office, so I may be drafting Treaty settlement legislation one week and measures giving effect to international sanctions the next.

"I have always enjoyed the process of breaking down complex ideas and expressing them in a written form that can be understood easily"

Counsel get to look at legislative proposals from a variety of perspectives. Our role requires us to think carefully about foundational legal concepts—such as the rule of law—and issues of constitutional propriety. But, at the same time, we also have very practical concerns because we need to ensure that legislation is legally effective and that it will work as intended "on the ground". Working through the range of legal and practical issues can be demanding, but is always rewarding.

As well as developing and refining the content of legislation, counsel act, in a sense, as guides for officials during the parliamentary and governmental processes associated with law-making. As the office responsible for drafting government legislation, PCO houses a significant store of procedural knowledge, which is always gratefully received and readily shared—both outside and within the office.

Amy Orr
Parliamentary Counsel

Amy Orr
Three years as a commercial and public law litigator at a large law firm, four years representing and advising the Crown at the Crown Law Office, drafter since 2004

I find it rewarding to work to give effect to policy within the constraints of constitutional principles, the rule of law, and drafting norms. It is a challenging and creative process. And it takes imagination to analyse risks and try to predict the ramifications of a policy proposal.

I love working with words, and enjoy conveying concepts into plain English. The job is endlessly fresh and stimulating—with subject areas generated by human ingenuity, new technology, changing societal values and priorities, and natural or human-driven disasters … Subject areas I have drafted about include biofuels, free trade agreements, companies, the public service, and the liabilities of the Crown. There is some scope for specialisation given that we draft in teams, but we can follow our interests by working across teams.

"The job is endlessly fresh and stimulating—with subject areas generated by human ingenuity, new technology, changing societal values and priorities, and natural or human-driven disasters"

I especially like working with others to develop laws that are better than an individual could have drafted alone.

As well as the interesting and varied work, we have very skilled and specialist support staff and benefit from supportive colleagues and managers.

Jacqueline Derby
Parliamentary Counsel

Jacqueline Derby
16 months in a major law firm, 18 months as legal adviser in Law Reform Division of Ministry of Justice, drafter since 1991

I had always enjoyed the drafting side of the other jobs that I had done. I like working out the structure, converting ideas into words and the process of refining the draft.

The creative challenge of a Parliamentary Counsel is to make legislation clear and legally effective. Our role is about understanding new policy and working with Government departments to make that policy a legal reality.

I enjoy working in Government. Some of the Acts and Legislative Instruments I have worked on include the Policing Act 2008, the Private Security Personnel and Private Investigators Act 2010, the Unit Titles Act 2010, the Criminal Procedure Act 2011, and the Health and Safety in Employment (Mining Operations and Quarrying Operations) Regulations 2013.

"The creative challenge of a Parliamentary Counsel is to make legislation clear and legally effective"

You are encouraged to drive your own personal development and identify the areas where you want to improve. I also have some involvement in training new drafters. There is a constant exchange of knowledge and ideas which I value.

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