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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5252

Mr PERRETT (MoretonGovernment Whip) (19:18): My question is to the Attorney-General. Before I go to the question, I will make reference to two things. First, I acknowledge the great work of the former Attorney-General in instigating the royal commission, now carried on very capably and ably by you, Attorney-General. I particularly wanted to mention the work of one of the commissioners, Bob Atkinson from Queensland, whom I know very well from his former work as a police commissioner.

Second, the member for La Trobe raised an issue about community legal centres. I know that when you, Attorney-General, came with me to the Queensland Women's Legal Service centre in Annerley on a recent visit, we heard time and time again from them about the number of people who were being turned away every night. This is a service which only deals with women and only deals with family law and domestic violence issues. So it is a concern to hear about people turning up at night—some nights up to 10 people—being turned away after making the journey there. That is not to mention those people throughout Queensland—because they do service all of Queensland via some specialised phone hook-ups—who are not able to get through. I know you heard that case, but it was quite distressing. Since they mainly have pro bono lawyers lined up to do their work, and although I recognise the great investment you have made in community legal centres, there are some great opportunities that should be looked at. My question is focused on a broader topic, not just on the people turned away from that women's legal service but more generally.

Not far from here we have a copy of the Magna Carta, which is kept in Parliament House. It is a sign of those great institutions that this parliament and this country have inherited. There are lots of arguments in history about what the Magna Carta represents. Some people say it was the collective speaking of a group of disgruntled barons who were speaking up against King John, like a trade union collective. From there have flowed all these great English institutions, and it officially refers to justice in great detail. We hear time and time again from people coming to our electorate offices of justice being delayed—and we know justice delayed is justice denied—and about justice being unpaid. This is also fast becoming justice denied, because of costs associated with running a case, with getting family law support, even with administrative matters which interfere in so many people's lives. I saw this particularly back in 2011 when I had over 5,100 properties in my electorate with water over their floorboards. I was on a committee with your colleague the member for Blair. Time and time again people said that if they had had support from a legal service—and it did not have to be extensive support, but just good support—they would have had a better chance of getting justice and their case sorted out.

I am sure from your former career you would agree that proper legal representation is an essential part of the adversarial system. We have heard recently of cases being thrown out because of the defendant's inability to have a fair trial because they were representing themselves and were unable to get legal assistance. With this in mind, can you explain how this budget will deliver a fairer go for Australians, especially with the focus of your answer on poorer Australians? How will this budget build a smarter, fairer and safer nation when it comes to justice, as suggested on budget night?