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Subprogram 2.5-Law and justice

SENATOR KEMP -Could officials indicate the guidelines adopted by ALAS for the provision of legal services to Aboriginal people? For example, at what level do means tests apply?

MR BEADMAN -Aboriginal legal services could apply to any one of the 20-odd around Australia. The question of means testing has come on the boil and dropped off for many years. It has not been applied rigidly as a condition of funding. Rather, the discretion has been left to individual legal aid services who constantly complain to us of underfunding, given the range of demands that are upon their services. Amongst the suggestions we always make is that they consider the application of a fee on those who can pay. I think there is varying experience around Australia. It is clear that those people who are on high incomes have retained the services of legal services wherever they might be. We have been able to ascertain when it has become a political issue in the past that those people have paid. We have got confidence that whilst there is no hard and fast rule as to the shut-off point in income where it might apply , means testing of a kind is at work.

SENATOR KEMP -Is it fair to draw the conclusion that the policy of ATSIC would be to encourage the use of means tests where appropriate amongst the legal services?

MR BEADMAN -Yes. The difficulty is making it a rigid rule.