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Legal aid in crisis - Howard must intervene



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iii-LiviENTARY LIBRARY

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SENATOR THE HON NICK BOLKUS SHADOW ATTORNEY GENERAL SHADOW MINISTER FOR JUSTICE LABOR SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA

MEDIA RELEASE

No.4/97 12 February 1997

LEGAL AID IN CRISIS - HOWARD MUST INTERVENE

Shadow Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Senator the Hon. Nick Bollcus, today called on the Prime Minister to intervene immediately to stop the crisis in legal aid.

Senator Bolkus' call follows yesterday's decision by the NSW Government to set up its own legal aid commission if the Commonwealth does not back down on its cuts to legal aid by the end of the month.

"The Prime Minister and the Attorney have only themselves to blame for the NSW Government's decision," Senator Bollcus said. "This crisis has been brought on by the Federal Government's cuts to the legal aid budget - and nothing else."

"It is a bit rich for the Attorney to call for the continuation of the current co-operative Commonwealth State arrangements when he failed to consult the States before unilaterally terminating the Commonwealth-State Legal Aid Agreement in June last year"

"Its a bit rich when he failed to consult the States before announcing the $120 million cut to legal aid funding in last year's Budget."

‘ "And its a bit rich when he only admitted last month that which was patently obvious to everyone - that the figures upon which he based his decision were wrong."

"It is not the States and Territories that have refused to negotiate - it has been Mr Williams," Senator Bollcus said.

"Mr Williams has shown himself to be totally incapable of resolving this issue. And it is ordinary Australians who will be denied access to justice as a result of his incompetence."

"The Commonwelth has accepted for over 20 years its obligations to ensure that veterans, students, migrants, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, pensioners and other social security recipients can access our justice system. This dispute was never about who should pay! It has always been about this Government refusal to meet its fundamental moral, legal and human

rights obligations."

"Well Mr Howard, let's stop this farce - let's stop the pain - enough is enough!"

Contact: Simon Banks Ph: (06) 277 3388 (bh) or 0419 63 85 87 (m) Fax: (06) 277 3062