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Coalition improves access to justice: Law Council looks at the wrong issues and reveals a narrow outlook for a special interest group.



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News Release

 

ATTORNEY-GENERAL

THE HON DARYL WILLIAMS AM QC MP

 

16 September 1998

 

COALITION IMPROVES ACCESS TO JUSTICE

Law Council looks at the wrong issues and reveals a narrow outlook for a special interest group -

 

The Coalition is committed to impro ving law and justice through appropriate reforms to the whole system.

 

The Law Council of Australia’s so-called “report card” ,which is largely a re-writing of a Senate committee report, misses the big picture and focuses only on the amount of public funds available for engaging private lawyers.

 

This so-called report card looks just at legal aid but ignores the Coalition’s work on preventative measures to keep citizens out of the court system, increased legal services at a community level, reform of the court process to reduce the length and cost of trials and increased funding for mediation services to resolve conflicts.

 

The Coalition has maintained Commonwealth funding for Commonwealth legal aid matters.

 

The Law Council does itself and the legal profession the disservice of appearing only to be concerned with using public funds for private lawyers.

 

The assessment by the Law Council that changed guidelines for legal aid have restricted the number of people being assisted is not supported by evidence.

 

For example, the Annual Report of Legal Aid Western Australia has found that under the new guidelines there has been a 23% increase of applications being granted assistance in family law matters.

 

This increase in assistance in family law matters is because the Coalition has put in place guidelines to ensure that legal aid funds are not primarily spent on long and expensive criminal matters but assist as many people as possible, especially in family law cases.

 

Legal aid commissions have worked to introduce a range of measures to limit funding for individual cases in order that more clients can be assisted and that no inequity arises between assisted clients and self-funded litigants.

 

The legal profession needs to accept responsibility for reforming the justice system to provide maximum access and equity.

 

The Law Council does not help by repeating carping criticisms of the amount of public funds available for engaging private lawyers.

 

Media contact:           Nicholas Harford         0419 423 965

 

 

 

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