FEDERAL ATTORNEY General Philip Ruddock has defended his Government’s arrangements for Indigenous legal aid services, rejecting some states’ claims that there have been funding cuts.
Commonwealth funding has increased, the country’s first legal officers claimed last week. He rejected claims by Victorian and Queensland Attorneys General that the Commonwealth model for legal aid had led to funding cuts.
“A new an equitable funding allocation model, based on the relative needs of Indigenous Australian, had ensured additional funding was now flowing to the areas of greatest need,” he said.
This results in an equitable share of funding in all States and Territories. There has been a consolidation of service providers in Queensland, with savings in administration costs,” Ruddock said.
He said that in both Western Australia and Victoria, the successful tenderers under the new arrangements were the previous providers, which he argued demonstrated that Indigenous organisations can operate competitively in a n open market.
While acknowledging some “teething problems” in northern Queensland, Ruddock said new arrangements were progressing well. “The Government’s reforms have been driven by its commitment to ensure the best services are provided on the ground to Indigenous Australians.”
He said he was encouraged by “positive discussions” with State and Territory colleagues, and that he has agreed to work constructively with the Queensland Attorney on other pressing issues relating to this matter.