SA Law Society calls in state budget ignored
Several funding requests outlined in the Law Society of South Australia’s state budget submission have been overlooked, with priority given instead to “productive economic infrastructure”.
According to the document, the society’s submissions sought funding to improve the operation of the justice system and increase access to justice.
Across its 15-page document, eight funding issues had been discussed by the Law Society, with most “key asks” within the submission recommending reversal of recent funding cuts or a modest increase in funding to important institutions of justice, it had said.
There was no mention of, or consideration to, any of the named funding areas within the state treasurer’s speech nor in the government’s budget highlights.
It was highlighted in the submission that due to previous and continued budget cuts, the Courts Administration Authority had been forced to reduce or discontinue important services, particularly in regional and remote areas.
The Law Society had requested “an immediate restoration” of the funding cuts as announced in last year’s budget, as well as additional funding to enable the courts to manage caseloads effectively and efficiently.
It had also requested additional judicial officers to deal with an increased youth court workload, and an investment in services for the state’s children and families, inclusive of early intervention services for at-risk families.
Noting that the Legal Aid Commission and community legal centres “play a vital role in providing access to justice”, the organisation considered the state as “behind the rest of Australia with regard to legal assistance funding”.
“The government should recognise the importance of having a well-resourced legal assistance sector both as a matter of principle and because of the obvious positive flow-on effects to the community and the economy,” it flagged, calling for a restoration of $12 million in Legal Aid funding, and the provision of additional funding to community legal centres.
Other areas where assistance was requested by the Law Society in its submission included: a reform to the CTP reform through implementation of recommendations from the review of the Motor Vehicle Accident (Lifetime Support Scheme) Act 2013; the establishment of a parliamentary review into the compensation payable under the Victims of Crime scheme; as well as criminal justice system reform through the implementation of recommendations from a review into major indictable reform, additional resources for the Forensic Mental Health Unit, continued funding for the Work Ready, Release Ready program, and improved AV link-up technology for jails.
Guardianship matters were also emphasised by the state’s representative legal body, where it was noted that “people appearing before SACAT often do not have the capacity to access independent legal advice”.
The society said it believes “effective legal representation in these matters (whether in the guardianship or the housing and civil division) would both protect vulnerable people and assist SACAT”.
It had therefore asked for funding to be given to the Legal Services Commission “for the specific purpose of providing basic legal representation to people appearing in original jurisdiction matters before SACAT” who are subject to guardianship, medical treatment and residence orders.