17 Months And No Good News For Access To Justice

Today, late on a Friday afternoon the week before the budget, Attorney-General George Brandis released his response to a vital Productivity Commission report on Access to Justice delivered to him 17 months ago in September 2014.

MARK DREYFUS QC MP

SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL

SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ARTS

MEMBER FOR ISAACS

 

17 MONTHS AND NO GOOD NEWS FOR ACCESS TO JUSTICE

 

Today, late on a Friday afternoon the week before the budget, Attorney-General George Brandis released his response to a vital Productivity Commission report on Access to Justice delivered to him 17 months ago in September 2014.

 

It contains no new promises of funding, and little hope for the hundreds of Community Legal Centres across the country who are struggling to stay open thanks to funding cuts delivered by the Abbott-Turnbull government. The manner in which Senator Brandis has handled the response to this key report shows how little value he places on access to justice for Australians. As Attorney-General it should be one of his highest priorities.

 

A key recommendation of the Productivity Commission at the end of 2014 was an immediate injection of $200 million in funding just to maintain the existing level of frontline services. That never happened. Instead, CLCs and legal aid services were left to struggle under the weight of $24 million in funding cuts made by the Abbott government. CLCs face another 30 per cent cut in funding in July next year if nothing is done.

 

CLCs are often the first port of call for people who cannot afford private lawyers and do not qualify for legal aid. Domestic violence victims are one of the biggest categories of clients that walk through their doors. I have visited a number of CLCs around the country in recent months and everywhere the story is the same – they are struggling to deal with the workload and are understaffed, and desperately need a new injection of funds.

 

This is shameful. If the government really wants to make a difference to the scourge of domestic violence in this country, it would deliver CLCs increased funding today. I am proud that Labor will be doing just that, with $43 million to be provided to CLCs as part of our domestic violence package.

 

When was the last time Senator Brandis set foot inside a CLC and spoke to those who are working so hard to keep them going? They deserve better than a do-nothing Attorney-General who clearly treats them as a second priority to his ideological agendas.

 

FRIDAY, 29 APRIL 2016