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Legal aid's $92m not enough: lawyers

Legal aid's $92m not enough: lawyers

The $92.3 million injection into legal aid still leaves a long way to go before funding is on track, according to a body representing Victorian lawyers.

THE $92.3 million injection into legal aid over four years still leaves a long way to go before funding is on track, according to a peak body representing Victorian lawyers.

The Victorian Bar says the 2010 Federal Budget has made progress on restoring legal aid funding, but questions the figure considering expectations the Budget will be back in surplus in four years.

“Legal Aid suffered massive cuts under the Howard Government in 1997 and has never recovered,” said the chair of the Victorian Bar, Michael Colbran QC.

“To return the Federal spending on Legal Aid to 1997 levels we needed $43 million in this Budget. Instead we see the Federal Budget deliver just $23 million per year for the next four years.

“The Federal Government wants to be the dominant funder in health and to contribute 60 per cent of the cost providing the nation’s health system, and yet it does not apply the same approach to another basic right – contributing only 32 per cent of the Legal Aid bill,” Colbran said.

The Victorian Bar said it recognised the work by the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, to secure the boost to funding in this Budget and his commitment to the Legal Aid issue.

Dr David Neal SC, who has worked extensively on the Legal Aid issue at a State and Federal level said: “The Federal Government cannot continue to shirk its

responsibilities in relation to Legal Aid funding. The legal crisis has a devastating and real impact on individuals and families.

“If one State, Victoria, can contribute an additional $25 million to legal aid in this year’s budget, why can the Commonwealth Government only manage $23 million nation-wide?”

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