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No frills budget a no legal affair

No frills budget a no legal affair

The legal profession can celebrate little more than a boost to legal assistance programs after the Treasurer Wayne Swan tonight delivered his third Federal Budget. As widely expected, the number…

The legal profession can celebrate little more than a boost to legal assistance programs after the Treasurer Wayne Swan tonight delivered his third Federal Budget.

As widely expected, the number of budget "goodies" were limited, and the tax cuts announced extremely modest. It was a "strict fiscal strategy" the Treasurer declared, one that would return the country to surplus within three years - three years ahead of schedule.

The budget deficit hit $40.8 billion for 2010-11, a $16 billion decrease on what was expected 12 months ago.

And while Swan was quick to note this year's Budget does not reflect, nor respond, to growing public dissatisfaction as indicated in recent polls, he was also quick to note that GDP growth has been forecast at three and a quarter per cent in 2010-11, rising to four per cent in 2011-12 - resulting in Australia emerging from the global financial crisis ahead of the rest of the Western world.

Key highlights included the Skills for Sustainable Growth strategy designed to encourage higher workforce participation which will be funded via a cash injection of $661 million, while $652 million was allocated for the Renewable Energy Future Fund. The health and hospitals network received a boost of $2.2 billion - including $355 million to fund GP "Super Clinics".

And despite 2009's bloated infrastructure spend, a further $5.6 billion was promised via a new infrastructure fund, as well as $1 billion to renew rail networks.

Meanwhile, the Resource Super Profits Tax (RSPT) will take effect from 1 July 2012, while company tax rate will be cut to 29 per cent in 2013-14 (28 per cent for small businesses), and to 28 per cent by 2014-15.

But for the legal profession, such a "strict fiscal strategy" will provide few benefits. Aside from a potential pickup in advisory work regarding changes impacting clients, handouts directly impacting the profession were few and far between.

The Attorney-General Robert McClelland did, however, announce a $154 million investment into legal assistance programs across the country. While a relatively modest sum, McClelland still declared it the largest and most significant injection into the legal assistance sector for over a decade.

Part of this funding will see a contribution of $92.3 million to legal aid over four years; $34.9 million allocated for indigenous legal services and $26.8 million for community legal services programs.

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