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Lawyers slam neglect of rural lawyers

Lawyers slam neglect of rural lawyers

Only the Greens are prepared to weigh up the legal profession's concerns about the recruitment and retention of lawyers in rural Australia, the Law Council has announced.

ONLY the Greens are prepared to weigh up the legal profession’s concerns about the recruitment and retention of lawyers in rural Australia, the Law Council has announced.

The response to a pre-election questionnaire conducted by the Law Council of Australia indicates both the Australian Labor Party and the Coalition lack commitment to dealing with the key policy issues of importance and relevance to the Australian legal profession, the Law Council said.

Access to justice, asylum seekers, human rights, anti-terror laws and recruitment and retention of lawyers were just some the of the issues the Law Council invited political parties to address in the lead up to the 21 August Federal Election.

On the issue of the retention of lawyers in rural area, both Labor and the Coalition said they were unwilling to provide legal practitioners with monetary allowances and bonuses for working in those areas.

The Greens Party, meanwhile, said it was prepared to consider a range of initiatives to encourage lawyers into those areas.

With the exception of the Greens, the major parties said they would not ensure fringe benefits tax liabilities on rural, regional and remote areas employer payments of employee benefits are waved.

Also, they would not provide further funding for clinical placements in RRR areas for law students and graduates.

The Law Council also sought views on a number of other issues, including gender equality, workers compensation and Indigenous issues which were also poorly addressed by those contending the 2010 Federal Election.

Law Council president Glenn Ferguson said the responses from both the ALP and the Coalition to all of these issues were disappointing.

“Both major parties appear to be more interested in playing politics rather than addressing the major policy issues of concern and importance to Australian lawyers and to Australians generally,” Ferguson said.

“Even when they were not playing the ‘blame game’, their feedback to our questions did little to indicate these important issues would be adequately addressed if either party won Government,” he said.

The response to the Law Council’s access to justice concerns was particularly disappointing, with Labor and the Coalition failing to commit to significantly boosting legal assistance sector funding, or to introducing initiatives aimed at encouraging more legal practitioners to practice in rural, regional and remote areas of Australia.

Neither party made any commitment to addressing the Law Council’s concerns over the treatment of asylum seekers, particularly with regards to increasing access to legal advice and assistance for those people seeking asylum in Australia, the Law Council said.

“The major parties’ lack of clear policy direction displayed in response to the issues outlined was, on the whole, very disappointing only the Greens seemed to appreciate the importance of addressing many of these issues as a matter of priority,” Ferguson said.

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