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Federal Attorney General's Department gets it wrong

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25th October 1996



“Y et again, the Federal Attorney General M r Daryl Williams QC, has demonstrated h e is getting very poor advice about the Australian legal aid system”, said M r Bruce Knowles, the Chairman o f the Legal Aid Commission o f N ew South Wales, j -

Responding to a statement made by 'M r Williams on ABC radio this morning that over th e last 5 years there has been a 27% reduction in the level o f Family Law legal aid activity throughout Australia, M r Knowles pointed out that, based on the Commonwealth’s own published figures, there has in feet been a 3.4% increase (not 27% decrease) in approvals for legal aid under Family Law. "Indeed in N ew South Wales there w as an 8% increase in legal aid Family Law activity in 1995/96 as against 1994/95". j

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“Despite th e feet that enquiry after enquiry has found that legal aid commissions are terribly under­ funded and therefore placed under enormous financial pressure Commissions have demonstrated, that through the introduction o f stringent funding operations that have stood up to constant scrutiny that even w ith reductions in funding they are still able, through excellent management, to produce increases in real terms in activity under both State and Commonwealth legislation”.

"This m ost recent incorrect statement by the Commonwealth together with its ridiculous nonsensical docum ent sent recently to State and Territory Governments that took 6 w eeks to produce, but required a response within 3 days, ju st gives further evidence that the Commonwealth does not know

what it is doing or on what basis it has calculated its reduced funding figure o f $40M nationally” .

“I can only hope that today’s deliberations at the meeting o f State, Territory and Federal Attorneys General can bring some sanity into the debate”, M r Knowles said.

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