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By DARRIN FARRANT
Tuesday 11 April 2000
Most lawyers can't wait to start their careers, but Carl Moller has kept his on hold for more than a year on a point of principle. Now he feels his patience has been rewarded.
The Victorian Government has announced that it will change the rules that require law graduates to swear allegiance to the Queen before they can practise. The change means that Mr Moller, a staunch republican who has spent the past year working as a legal clerk because he refused to swear the oath, can now join the ranks of the state's lawyers.
"This is exciting for me ... I'd be a lot happier, of course, if Australia was a republic," he says.
Mr Moller, 28, was due to be admitted as a solicitor and barrister a year ago when he applied for an exemption from swearing the oath. The Supreme Court refused and the Court of Appeal rejected Mr Moller's subsequent appeal.
But Attorney-General Rob Hulls has agreed to change the rules, although the reforms are not expected to make it through State Parliament until the spring session.
Mr Moller says that while many of his friends and peers agreed with his views about the oath, they urged him to do the practical thing and "cross his fingers" during the admission ceremony.
That was never an option, the conscientious objector insists. White lies might be OK for some, but he says plenty of people also "see the asset-stripping of companies as an acceptable form of conduct".
Mr Moller was a government-selected delegate to the Constitutional Convention, but he argues his opposition to the oath has never just been about the republic.
"This is about the solemnity of the oath. You don't take an oath you don't believe in. That would be perjury," he says.
Mr Moller does not see himself as a radical, pointing out that only three other Australian states still require the oath, and that England abolished the requirement in 1868.
"It doesn't add anything to the practice or the profession ... If you are going to impose an oath, it should have meaning and it should have substance. It would be better to have no oath than to have an empty oath," he says.
Mr Hulls says he has not decided whether to scrap the oath entirely, replace it with an oath of allegiance to Australia, or merely make it optional.
"My department will look at it. I think there are some royalists out there who would still want to swear allegiance. But we'll have a look at all of the options," he says.
Mr Moller says he just wants to concentrate on becoming a solicitor with his firm Clayton Utz, which supported him during his campaign.
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