THE AUSTRALIAN Government does not distribute legal aid funding solely on a per capita basis but takes account of a variety of factors affecting the use of legal aid services in each jurisdiction, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock told federal Parliament last week.
Ruddock responded to questions from the deputy leader of the Opposition, Jenny Macklin, who asked for an explanation for why Victoria would not receive a proportionate share of legal aid funding over the next four years. Macklin also asked Ruddock to provide the demographic and socio-economic data for Victoria.
Last week, Ruddock said the Government uses a funding distribution model to help determine how much money to offer each state and territory.
He said instead of distributing legal aid purely according to population, the model considers factors including demographic and socio-economic indicators that reflect the number of people in each jurisdiction who are more likely to require legal assistance for Commonwealth law matters.
“The Australian Government also takes into account other issues affecting individual jurisdictions in determining its funding offers,” Ruddock said, though he did not go into further detail.
According to Ruddock, Victoria’s share of funding was determined by reference to the funding model which estimates demand and cost weights. This model, he said, does not operate on the basis of electorates.
Demand weights for each state and territory are estimated by examining the number of legal aid applications received by age and sex, estimated resident population data, unemployment, the number of single parent recipients, the number of divorces involving children and the average cost of referred legal aid cases.
The Commonwealth Grants Commission determined the cost weights in the model, Ruddock said. They included factors for dispersion, scale, urbanisation and populations of Indigenous people and people whose English is not fluent.
Macklin questioned whether Ruddock would provide the documentation indicating why Victoria is not receiving a proportionate share of legal aid funds. He said his department had already provided legal aid commissions with the report of the review of the legal aid funding model, which offered the rationale for the current model.