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Thursday, 29 May 1997
Page: 4070

(Question No. 512)


Senator Bob Collins asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 21 March 1997:

(1) (a) How many Environmental Defenders Offices (EDO's) operate throughout Australia;? (b) where are they located?; (c) what functions do they perform?; and (d) how many staff do they employ?

(2) What level of Commonwealth funding was provided to these offices in the 199697 financial years?

(3) Is funding for these offices provided on a 3-year basis or is funding subject to Government priorities as determined by the annual budget process?

(4) Is Commonwealth funding provided subject to certain conditions; if so: (a) what are these conditions: and (b) how are they enforced?

(5) Did the Attorney-General advised the convenor of the Western Australian EDO Board of Management that funding for the service may be withdrawn; if so, what were the reasons given by the Attorney-General for this possible action.

(6) Has the Government received any complaints from State or Territory Governments or individual politicians about the operation of EDO's; if so, what was the nature of these comPlaints.


Senator Vanstone —The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) (a) Nine.

(b) EDO's are located in: Melbourne; Sydney; Brisbane; Hobart; Darwin; the Cairns Community Legal Centre; Perth; Canberra; and the Environmental Law Community Advisory Service (ELCAS) in Adelaide

(c) As part of the community legal centre network, EDOs provide environmental legal services to people who could otherwise not afford specialist legal advice. EDOs offer specialist legal assistance to individuals and groups wishing to conserve, enhance or promote the built or natural environment.

EDOs provide legal advice; conduct litigation; contribute to the law reform process; and provide community legal education in public interest environmental matters.

(d) Staffing arrangements vary between individual EDOs and staff numbers may fluctuate over time. It is usual for each EDO to have a coordinator to take care of office administration and routine book-keeping—in the smaller EDOs this would normally be a part-time position.

A solicitor is employed by the EDO to provide the range of legal services as required by funders—again the precise employment arrangement would depend on the size of the EDO concerned. In addition EDOs draw on significant volunteer support from the public and receive pro bono assistance from the legal profession.

(2) Funding for Environmental Lawyers 1995-96 and 1996-97

$ 1995-96$ 1996-97
Environmental Defenders Office (Tas)46,00069,000
Environmental Law Community Advisory Service (SA)46,00069,000
Environmental Defenders Office (NT)46,00069,000
Environmental Defenders Office North Queensland46,00069,000
Environmental Defender's Office (WA)46,00069,000
Environmental Defenders Office ACT24,00034,000
Environmental Defenders Office Vic70,00069,000
Environmental Defenders Office NSW70,00069,000
Environmental Defenders Office Qld70,00069,000
TOTAL464 000586 000

(3) Funding is provided under the Commonwealth Community Legal Centre Program and is determined annually in light of competing priorities within my portfolio and broader budgetary considerations.

(4) (a) Funding is provided subject to standard Commonwealth accountability and reporting mechanisms which ensure the activities for which they receive funding are carried out and value for money is achieved. EDOs operate in accordance with the operational guidelines for the CCLCP and are all signatories to either a Deed of Agreement or a Service Agreement.

(b) Enforcement action, if considered necessary, may range from informal consultations with Management Committees, to withdrawal of funding.

(5) It is not considered appropriate for the Attorney-General to canvass publicly private discussions that may or may not have taken place between himself and others.

(6) It is not appropriate for the Attorney-General to comment on correspondence or discussions that may or may not have taken place with other Ministers or Members of Parliament.