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Thursday, 13 August 2009
Page: 4962


Senator Ludlam asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 11 June 2009:

With reference to the Commonwealth Public Interest and Test Cases Scheme which has been administered by the department for the past 10 years: (a) how many cases has it funded; (b) what were the details of each of these cases; (c) how many applications for funding have been refused; and (d) can details be provided on each application that was rejected.


Senator Wong (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

(a)   The Commonwealth Public Interest and Test Cases Scheme (CPITC) is administered by the Legal Assistance Branch within the Attorney-General’s Department. Since August 2004, the Department has used a customised database, known as the Data and Workflow of Grants System (DAWGS), to process all applications for financial assistance. Records on applications received under the CPITC prior to August 2004 were migrated to DAWGS. The following information in relation to applications received under the CPITC includes all applications for which information is available on DAWGS. According to DAWGS, from a total of 194 finalised applications, the Department has approved funding in relation to 75 matters under the CPITC (as at 16 June 2009).

(b)   It is not appropriate for me to comment on the details of individual CPITC matters funded by the Department. There has been a longstanding practice, endorsed by successive Attorneys-General, to treat applications for Commonwealth financial assistance as confidential. This practice has extended to neither confirming nor denying that particular applications have been received or granted. The practice is consistent with obligations imposed by the Privacy Act 1988. It also protects information provided by applicants which would otherwise be subject to solicitor-client confidentiality. However, it is possible to provide general information in relation to approved applications.         The 75 matters funded under the CPITC related to the following areas of Commonwealth law: family law (n=24), discrimination/human rights (n=9), administrative law (n=8), workplace/industrial relations (n=6), constitutional law (n=5), employment/OH&S/workers compensation (n=4), land rights (n=3), migration (n=3), Commonwealth criminal law (n=2), consumer/fair trading/Trade Practices Act (n=2), social security (n=2), extradition (n=1), intellectual property (n=1), proceeds of crime (n=1) and unknown (n=4). These categories have been broadly characterised, and each matter may have raised subsidiary legal issues relating to another area of law. According to DAWGS, since the Scheme’s inception, a total of $2,186,400 has been paid to grant recipients. This equates to an average of about $29,152 per grant, however, the lowest total paid under a single grant was $536, and the highest was $252,598.

(c)   According to DAWGS, the Department has refused funding for 119 applications under the CPITC (as at 11 June 2009).

(d)   All applications for assistance are assessed against the eligibility criteria in the Guidelines for the provision of assistance by the Commonwealth for legal and related expenses under the Commonwealth Public Interest and Test Cases Scheme (Attachment A - available from the Senate Table Office). It is not appropriate for me to comment on the details of individual CPITC matters where funding was refused by the Department. There has been a longstanding practice, endorsed by successive Attorneys-General, to treat applications for Commonwealth financial assistance as confidential. This practice has extended to neither confirming nor denying that particular applications have been received or granted. The practice is consistent with obligations imposed by the Privacy Act 1988. It also protects information provided by applicants which would otherwise be subject to solicitor-client confidentiality. Generally, applications for assistance may be refused for a range of reasons including, for example, if the application relates to a non-Commonwealth area of law or the applicant is considered to have sufficient financial means to meet the cost of the proceedings. Applications may also be refused where the applicant fails to submit a completed application or withdraws their application.