The Abbott Government must urgently increase funding for legal assistance services and remove gag clauses in light of the Productivity Commission report released today, say the Australian Greens.
Australian Greens spokesperson for legal affairs Senator Penny Wright said the Productivity Commission's Access to Justice Arrangements report revealed many errors in Attorney-General George Brandis's approach to the sector.
"This report has clearly revealed the flawed logic of the Abbott Government, which has cut funding to legal aid and banned legal advocacy," Senator Wright says.
"Today's report says the Commonwealth should be funding advocacy work because it is efficient, effective and solves systemic issues - reducing the demand on frontline services.
"The Australian Greens support the Productivity Commission's call for $200 million in further funding to maintain and improve legal assistance.
"The Productivity Commission's report says cuts to legal assistance is a false economy, because the costs of unresolved problems are shifted to other areas of government spending like health care, housing and child protection.
"What this report shows is that for many Australians, access to justice is too complex and too expensive.
"It is time to make sure every Australian can seek justice and that legal issues are resolved on the merits of the claim, not the size of someone's wallet."
The report also recommends:
- Introducing a HECS-style scheme for legal fees for those not eligible for legal aid, to allow people to pursue legal cases of merit.
- Court fees should not be materially increased for cases concerning family violence, child protection, deprivation of liberty, guardianship, mental health, or claims to seek asylum or protection.
- Legal aid commissions should not be subject to staffing restrictions where the expansion of in-house services represents a more cost effective approach to delivering services than outsourcing to the private legal profession.