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QLS impressed by state budget, but wants more

QLS impressed by state budget, but wants more

Bill Potts, Queensland Law Society

The Queensland Law Society (QLS) has said the myriad of justice initiatives announced in the 2015-16 state budget is a boon for Queensland, but believes the federal government needs to step up.

The Palaszczuk Labor government’s 2016-17 budget has delivered funding to a wide range of important justice delivery issues including funding to legal aid and access to justice, domestic violence initiatives, the courts and sufficient resources to boost police numbers in Queensland.

“The society congratulates the government on the plethora of justice issues the budget has addressed, many of which we called for prior to the 2015 state election,” said QLS president Bill Potts (pictured).

“However, what we have so far can best be described as a good start. More can be done by both state and federal governments to ensure justice can be accessed quickly and easily by all Queenslanders.”

Mr Potts said an increase in federal funding to match the state commitments was the key to ensuring sufficient legal aid was provided.

“As it stands, federal funding will fall off a very steep cliff in a very short time, and that needs to change,” he said.

Included in the Palaszczuk Labor government’s 2016-17 budget is $166.2 million over five years with ongoing funding of $40.6 million per annum to provide sustainable long-term funding for legal assistance, legal profession regulation and law library services providing triennial funding certainty to legal entities.

Further, the budget also includes funding of $32.4 million over four years to boost Legal Aid Queensland funding to a level that is equal to the national average per capita over time and funding of $13 million a year, ongoing, to sustain expected increases in demand.

The budget also supports the continued rollout of specialised courts and court diversion programs including the Murri Court, the Drug Court and the Queensland Integrated Court referrals, and provides an additional $20 million over two years to address the increasing demand for the justice services across Queensland.

“This is like running a marathon and being handed a water bottle at the two-kilometre mark; it’s appreciated, but you’ll need a lot more to finish the race,” Mr Potts said.

“Just as the marathon runner at the halfway point looks forward to a big gulp of Gatorade, we are hoping to see a drum full of legal aid funding to ensure access to justice for all.”

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