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Sian another victim of legal aid cuts.

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Robert McClelland MP

Shadow Attorney-General Federal Member For Barton

Contact: Simon Banks Ph: (02) 6277 4323 or 0419 638 587





The plight of 8 year old Sian Grahl shows the deplorable state that ou r nation’s legal aid system is in, according to the Shadow Attorney-General Robert McClelland.


As reported in today’s Sydney Morning Herald and Daily Telegraph , Sian’s parents have been refused legal aid for a case about the right of their disabled daughter to attend a school.


Under the Howard Government’s legal aid guidelines, as they apply to discrimination cases, applicants must show that they have strong prospects for success and that there will be a substantial benefit to the public or any section of it, if the case is funded.


“This is a tougher test than applies to any other type of civil case and the Attorney-General, Mr Williams, has failed to provide any good reason why this higher standard should apply,” Mr McClelland said.


“All legal aid applicants are already required to prove that their case has merit, that they have reasonable prospects of success and that the ordinary prudent self-funded litigant would pay for the case if they were funding it themselves.


“But the ability of people facing discrimination to access justice is only going to get worse if the Howard Government’s Human Rights Legislation Amendment Bill 1998 is passed.


“At present applicants only have to pay nominal fees in making a complaint. If the Howard Government’s Bill is passed, they will have to pay full Federal Court fees, costing an average $3200 if the matter ultimately goes to hearing. And a minimum of $500 even if the matter is resolved by conciliation.


“Applicants will also run the risk, if they lose, of having to paying many thousands of dollars in costs to the other side, even if they have an arguable case. This will make it significantly harder for people facing discrimination to bring a complaint,” Mr McClelland said.


“Sian Grahl is just the latest victim of the Howard Government’s heartless policies. Regrettably, there will be many who will not be given the opportunity to protect themselves from discrimination if this Government continues to get its way.”


28 April 1999