Government Senators call for funding for cross-examination reform

In an extraordinary report tabled today, the Government’s own Senators have joined Labor in calling for a guarantee of additional funding for Legal Aid before a bill to ban the direct cross-examination of domestic violence survivors is passed through Parliament.

THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP
SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL
SHADOW MINISTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
 
THE HON LINDA BURNEY
ACTING SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND SOCIAL SERVICES
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HUMAN SERVICES
SHADOW MINISTER FOR PREVENTING FAMILY VIOLENCE
MEMBER FOR BARTON
 
SENATOR LOUISE PRATT
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES

DEPUTY CHAIR LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
SENATOR FOR WESTERN AUSTRALIA

 

 

GOVERNMENT SENATORS CALL FOR FUNDING FOR CROSS-EXAMINATION REFORM

 
In an extraordinary report tabled today, the Government’s own Senators have joined Labor in calling for a guarantee of additional funding for Legal Aid before a bill to ban the direct cross-examination of domestic violence survivors is passed through Parliament.
 
The bipartisan report of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, chaired by LNP Senator Ian Macdonald, has recommended that “details regarding the funding of the measures contained in the bill be made public prior to the commencement of debate on the bill in the Senate”, and the bill be passed contingent on that recommendation being fulfilled.
 
Labor first proposed a ban on direct cross-examination of domestic violence victims by perpetrators at the 2016 election, and pledged $43 million to Legal Aid to facilitate that reform.
 
Bill Shorten re-affirmed that commitment on White Ribbon Day in November 2016. It is welcome that the Government has finally acted on the mechanics of this overdue reform, with an aim to stop domestic violence survivors from being re-traumatised through the court system. But at every turn, the Government has failed to commit to funding.
 
National Legal Aid has given evidence at a Senate hearing that it needs additional funding if it is to take on the cases of unrepresented litigants, to prevent the direct cross-examination of domestic violence victims.
 
Now Government members of the committee have gone a step further, calling for the bill not to be passed until additional funding is guaranteed.
 
This is a message that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Attorney-General Christian Porter cannot ignore. If they do, they are disowning a recommendation made by their own colleagues.
 
Mr Porter must immediately commit to a specific funding pledge for Legal Aid, including the mechanism for how the money will be allocated and who will be eligible to access this additional funding for the purposes of representation.

MONDAY, 13 AUGUST 2018