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Old parties to pocket justice dollars for budget boost

Media Release
Penny Wright 18 Jun 2013

A Coalition backflip on higher Federal Court fees will greatly restrict access to justice, says Australian spokesperson for Legal Affairs Senator Penny Wright.

In a Senate Inquiry report handed down late last night into filing fee increases of up to 400 per cent, the Coalition reversed its position on the use of revenue generated by the hike.

"My inquiry heard Labor's court fee increases since 2010 were not based on a good or clear rationale and would deter genuine cases and create further inequality in Australia," Senator Wright said.

"In February this year Shadow Attorney General George Brandis agreed. He said the fee hikes were 'another disguised Labor tax' that would hit court users hard.

"Perhaps with an eye to next year's budget, he has now back-flipped.

"Today the Coalition's position is that it's perfectly appropriate to use the third arm of government for general revenue.

"The Coalition talked the talk on access to justice, but when it came to the crunch they walked away from the fundamental principle that all Australians should be able to seek legal assistance based on the merit of their claim and not the size of their wallet.

"The old parties have clubbed together and put money ahead of taking pressure off low and middle income Australians.

"They have ignored the evidence the harm these fee increases would have, particularly on lower income women seeking divorces.

"The Australian Greens have recommended the latest increases, which came into effect at the beginning of this year, be wound back and any revenue raised be put back into access to justice measures."

Senator Penny Wright is the chair of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee and initiated the inquiry in February. A full copy of the report will be uploaded here.

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