“Unanswered questions” remain over whether alternative business structures (ABSs) should have been permitted, Alistair MacDonald QC, told a conference in the US.

The Bar chair raised concerns in a speech to the Australian Bar Association in Boston in July, weeks after the Bar Standards Board submitted its application to the Legal Services Board to become an ABS regulator.

MacDonald said there are a “raft of concerns and questions” about independence and conflicts of interest.

He asked whether in criminal legal aid it was “appropriate” to have entities whose primary purpose is maximising profit.

ABSs, he suggested, may be an example of the government’s “insatiable appetite to tinker with institutions without fully appreciating the effects of their actions”.