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Friday, 6 December 1985
Page: 3157

Senator DURACK(1.15) —Mr Deputy President, the Opposition supports this measure, but we do propose to move an amendment to it which has been circulated. The object of the legislation is to remove a provision of the Judiciary Act which has given the Attorney-General the obligation of providing legal aid if there is a certificate made to him by a judge presiding at a trial that there is an accused person without any legal aid or assistance. This has been used recently in the famous Maher case.

Senator Haines —Infamous.

Senator DURACK —All right, the infamous Maher case, if you like-but I think it may be premature to make any comment about it because it is under appeal, I understand. The Attorney-General faced real difficulties in that matter and it has rather exposed this old provision which, on the face of it, may not be seen to be necessary in this day and age with very considerable machinery and funds for legal aid. The present Attorney-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) wishes to have this removed entirely. The Opposition believes that that is going too far and that in fact the power to give it by the Attorney-General ought to be retained in case there is some extreme case where legal aid has not been provided. But in the normal course of events the Attorney-General should be able to refer this question to the legal aid system. Overwhelmingly, people who cannot afford their trial on a major event would be accommodated within the legal aid system and there is no reason why the Attorney-General, except in an extreme case, should be called upon to provide legal aid direct. That is what the issue is about. The Opposition supports the Bill, but will be moving the amendment which has been circulated.