SHADOW ATTORNEY-General Nicola Roxon slammed her federal counterpart, Philip Ruddock, over the government’s decision not to provide funding for the 2006 national conference for community legal centres.
Roxon claimed last week that Ruddock would be “the first Attorney in 15 years not to provide the small amount of $25,000 to these legal centres to be able to attend the conference in Wollongong”.
The importance of the legal centres could not be underestimated, according to Roxon. “They’ve got to provide advice to ordinary Australians every day of the week, and the government’s been changing the laws in family law, in welfare to work [and] in industrial relations,” she said.
“All of these things are putting enormous pressure on the community legal centres and Ruddock is just too mean to actually assist them to do that training and networking together,” she said.
Member for Cunningham, Sharon Bird, representative of the area hosting the conference, agreed with her federal colleague.
“It’s about $25,000, which subsidises the travel of rural and regional delegates to participate, and there’s nothing more important than being up-to-date in your professional careers,” Bird said.
Ruddock had earlier said that it was “inappropriate for Australian Government funds to be directed to the support of campaigns against legislation enacted by the Parliament of Australia”.
The planned discussion of campaign issues such as welfare to work, industrial relations, family law reform, indigenous justice and national security was nothing more than “blatant politicisation of community legal centres”, Ruddock said. “The issue is subsidising people to go and listen to a political campaign.”
The conference will be held on 3 to 6 September at the Novotel Northbeach, Wollongong. This year’s theme is ‘Opening Closed Doors — CLCs Advancing Community Justice’.