Thursday, 26 March 2015
That the Senate—
(a) notes the effects of Commonwealth funding uncertainty on the legal assistance sector, including the possible closure of community legal centres, staff loss, a reduction in services to clients and declining staff morale;
(b) acknowledges that, unless this uncertainty is addressed and funding restored, critical services directed at family violence, child protection, disability and mental health and services to regional, remote and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities may be irrevocably compromised;
(c) accepts the findings of the Productivity Commission's 2014 report on access to justice, which recommended an additional $200 million in Commonwealth, state and territory funding be provided for civil legal assistance services to address urgent need; and
(d) calls on the Federal Government to immediately address the funding uncertainty and include increased funding for the legal assistance sector in the 2015-16 Federal Budget.
Labor notes the letter earlier this month from all state and territory attorneys-general calling on the Abbott government to reconsider its current proposal for a national funding agreement for legal assistance. It is extraordinary that the attorney-generals from across Australia—Liberal and Labor—have united to condemn Senator Brandis's cuts to legal aid, community legal centres and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services. The Abbott government's cuts to the legal assistance sector are already being felt by the most vulnerable Australians. Cuts to community legal centres mean that the assistance available to families experiencing domestic violence has already been affected. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal centres do invaluable work in Indigenous communities and they also have had their funding cut. (Time expired)