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Tuesday, 13 October 2015
Page: 7441

Budget


Senator MOORE (Queensland) (14:32): My question is to the Minister for Women, Senator Cash. Does the minister stand by her claim that there has been a 'false and misleading campaign' by community legal services following the coalition government's decision to cut $12 million in funding from legal assistance, including for domestic violence services ?


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:32): I thank Senator Moore for the question. That is not what I said. My claim about a 'false and misleading campaign' in relation to funding for community legal centres was based on what Labor and the Greens had said. That was the basis for the 'false and misleading campaign' comment.


Senator MOORE (Queensland) (14:33): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer to the CEO of the Federation of Community Legal Centres, Ms Buchanan, who said:

The bottom line is in the government’s national partnership agreement that the former prime minister signed in July this year. It is clear and explicit that funding for community legal centres will still be cut by $12m in 2017…

As the issue is the cut of the $12 million, why is the minister misleading Australians about the government's cuts to legal services? (Time expired)


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:33): Senator Moore, I did not mislead Australians. That is exactly what the Labor Party and the Greens have done in relation to this government's decisions on funding. It is a fact that the Commonwealth commitment to legal assistance over the next five years will total $1.6 billion across legal aid commissions, community legal centres and Indigenous legal assistance centres.

You will recall that earlier this year Senator Brandis and I made the decision to restore the funding cuts that would have taken place on 1 July this year. We made that decision and ensured that those cuts did not occur. I have always said and acknowledged that in the out years there is a reduction in funding. That will be looked at as part of the normal MYEFO or budgetary processes. What the current government is doing is nothing different to what the former government did. But the allegations that there have been funding cuts this year are untrue. (Time expired)


Senator MOORE (Queensland) (14:34): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I refer to another member of the community legal services, ARC Justice's chief executive Mr Noble, who said:

… $12m will come out of the budget of community legal centres nationally from July 2017. Whether you want to call it non-renewable funding or a cut, that doesn’t matter in my books, and it won’t matter to women in court who receive our help.

Can the minister please explain how the $12 million funding cut is not a cut?


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:35): I have never ever stated that there will not be a reduction in funding in the out years. I have never denied that. There clearly is anticipated to be one. However, what I have always said is that it will be considered as part of the normal budgetary processes.

I want to make one thing very, very clear. It was those on the other side who failed to fund the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness. That funding came to an end under that government, and there was no provision to re-fund that. That is something that this government did. The former minister, Scott Morrison, made the decision to fund it for two years. It is not unusual to provide funding for a two-year period and then consider ongoing funding in the out years.

Senator Moore, I hope you are not questioning this government's commitment to reducing violence against women and children. I would hope that in this place there is a bipartisan agreement that that is exactly what we need to do. (Time expired)