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Budget 2024: The key takeaways lawyers need to know

Treasurer Jim Chalmers has handed down the third federal budget for the Albanese Labor government for 2024–25. Here’s what legal practitioners need to be across.

user iconNaomi Neilson and Lauren Croft 14 May 2024 Big Law
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The 2024–25 federal budget was handed down by Treasurer Jim Chalmers earlier tonight (14 May) and includes a number of measures lawyers should be aware of, from investments in community legal services to strengthening Australia’s anti-money laundering laws.

In his speech to Parliament, Chalmers said the budget was “for every Australian” and was “realistic about the pressures people face now”.

“It reflects our biggest ambitions and our highest aspirations to make Australians the primary beneficiaries of a world of churn and change.


“Tapping their confidence, compassion and creativity to manage their pressures and maximise our advantages to forge a new economy and a new generation of prosperity,” Chalmers said.

Here are the measures announced in the 2024–25 budget for lawyers:

Anti-money laundering obligations

Reforms to strengthen Australia’s Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 will be supported by a $168 million investment over four years from 2024–25.

Most of this – $160.8 million – will be expended over two years for the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) to build on its regulatory, intelligence and data capabilities.

The remaining $7 million will be used over four years to assist the Attorney-General’s Department with the implementation of legislative reforms through the “provision of policy and legal advice and stakeholder consultation, and to deliver a program of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing capacity building in the Pacific”.

When the anti-money laundering budget was first announced, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the reforms were “critical in supporting law enforcement partners” in their pursuit of those committing “transnational, serious and organised crime” in Australia.

“As a result of the former government’s failure to act, Australia is falling short of meeting the standards required to combat criminal abuse of our financial system, and at increased risk of becoming a haven for money laundering,” Dreyfus said.

The funding will be held in the Contingency Reserve until legislative reforms pass Parliament later this year.

Attorney-General’s Department

In addition to supporting its work in the anti-money laundering space, the budget has reprioritised $91.8 million over five years to fund portfolio policy priorities within the Attorney-General’s Department.

There will also be further funding for the Attorney-General – alongside the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water – to support Australia’s participation “in international legal actions”.

Here are a number of other key measures within the department:

  • A further $109.9 million over two years will also assist the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission in collaborating with state and territory law enforcement agencies.
  • $14.2 million to improve community safety in Alice Springs.
  • And $2.5 million over two years to undertake an audit of government supply chains and procurement procedures.
Court and justice system

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions will receive $35 million over two years to assist its capacity to undertake criminal prosecutions on behalf of the Commonwealth.

Another $5.6 million will assist the Attorney-General’s Department with administering the Community Safety Order (CSO), including extending the Commonwealth Criminal Cases fund to cover legal assistance.

The government said it will also provide $1 billion over five years to establish and support the “sustainable operation” of the new Administrative Review Tribunal – which will replace the Administrative Appeals Tribunal – and address court backlogs.

Community legal centres

The government invested $44.1 million in legal assistance, including a one-year indexation supplementation in funding for legal aid commissions, community centres, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services.

This is in addition to addressing community legal sector pay disparities.

Within the Community Legal Centre’s pre-budget submission, it said every dollar invested in legal assistance “delivers many dollars’ worth of benefits to clients, communities and governments”.

Law Council of Australia (LCA) president Greg McIntyre said: “While there are always pressures and limits that must be placed on budget spending, it is actually when times are toughest that investment in legal assistance services for the most vulnerable in our community becomes even more important.”

This comes after LGBTI Legal Service said it had been forced to turn away individuals due to severe underfunding, emphasising that LGBTI specialist community legal services were “at breaking point”.

Earlier this month, Community Legal Centres Australia also urged the government to increase funding to frontline centres to address women’s safety, citing that an additional $125 million in funding was needed.

Funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

The government has committed to providing $43.1 million over four years to improve justice outcomes for First Nation individuals and families.

This will include:

  • $20.2 million over four years to the Federal Court of Australia and the National Native Title Tribunal to preserve culturally and historically significant native title records and address the backlog of native title claims and post-determination disputes.
  • $11.7 million over two years to extend the First Nations Family Dispute Resolution pilot program.
  • $10.7 million over four years to continue funding for the Justice Policy Partnership to reduce youth incarceration rates.
  • And $0.5 million over two years to the Australian Law Reform Commission to review future acts regime within the Native Title Act.
Domestic and gender-based violence

The government has already pledged $925.5 million to initiatives to prevent violence against women, including permanent funding to help victim-survivors leave violent relationships.

This program includes individualised support packages of up to $1,500 in cash and $3,000 in goods and services.

The funds also include $152.3 million over three years to expand the Escaping Violence Payment and the Temporary Visa Holders Experiencing Violence Pilot trials.

Another $16.5 million over five years will provide legal assistance for temporary visa holders leaving violent relationships.

Women’s Legal Services Australia chair Elena Rosenman said women’s legal services are an “essential part” of the safety net for women in crisis.

“Women affected by gender-based violence need to understand their legal options, have advice and representation through legal processes, and support to manage safety risks that often escalate during engagement with legal processes. With adequate and secure funding, this is exactly the support our services can provide,” Rosenman said.

This follows remarks made by Attorney-General Dreyfus last month, whereby he called male violence a “scourge on our society” and said that “there is a crisis of male violence in Australia”.

Other pledges

Elsewhere in the budget, the government made these commitments:

  • Small businesses: $2.6 million over four years, and $0.7 million per year, was set aside to expand small businesses’ access to low-cost legal advice and alternative dispute resolution services.
  • Public order and safety: It is expected to receive $1.8 million, but this figure will decrease over the next several years as the National Legal Assistance Partnership approaches its expiry date.
  • Medical: Funding will continue for legal action seeking compensation for losses incurred as a result of pharmaceutical companies delaying the listing of generic forms of medicines on the Pharmaceutical Scheme through undue legal action.
  • National security: $30.2 million over four years to the Attorney-General and $5.5 million over four to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions will support the work of the Counter Foreign Interference Taskforce, which aims to discover, disrupt and investigate foreign interference activity.
  • Online safety: $1.4 million was given to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner to support legal and compliance functions.