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Thursday, 10 May 2018
Page: 2868

Senator GRIFF (South Australia) (11:57): I, and also on behalf of Senator McKim, move:

That the Senate—

(a) notes that:

(i) National Pro Bono Day is celebrated on 15 May 2018 and raises funds for legal aid clearing houses across Australia,

(ii) legal aid services provide an essential service and strive to ensure that all citizens, not just the wealthy, have equal access to justice,

(iii) however, due to a lack of resources, an excessively restrictive means test remains in place and consequently tens of thousands of people are not eligible for legal aid funding:

(A) only a tiny proportion of the population are eligible for legal aid funding, and

(B) 14% of the population live below the poverty line in Australia, but only 6% of those below the line would actually qualify for legal aid, and

(iv) the Federal Government contribution to legal aid has, in real terms, fallen to its lowest level in 20 years:

(A) in 1996-97, the Government contributed $11.57 per capita but by 2017- 2018, that figure had fallen to $8.40,

(B) this is forecast to decline further to $7.78 in 2019-2020,

(C) the Federal Government's share of legal aid funding has fallen from 55% in 1996-1997 to 32% in 2017-2018, and

(D) a return to a 50% share would have required an investment of $190 million in this year's Budget - this did not occur;

(b) acknowledges the valuable work undertaken by legal aid providers and those who volunteer their time on a pro bono basis;

(c) calls on all senators to become supporters of legal aid and participate in their local 'Walk for Justice' event on National Pro Bono Day; and

(d) calls on the Government to reverse the downward trend in legal aid funding.