Lawyers react to NSW budget
The body representing NSW lawyers has shared its thoughts on the outcome of the 2020 state budget.
Following the NSW budget being handed down this week, the NSW Law Society was quick to issue a statement, welcoming funding allocated which seeks to improve justice infrastructure in the state and support the community’s most vulnerable.
The funding in the 2020-21 budget includes: $17.5 million, or $54.5 million over three years, for a major digital and courts reform project to enhance the efficiency and productivity of the state’s courts and tribunals; $30.6 million in 2020-21 to continue the government’s increased capacity of the current District Court; $5 million in 2020-21 to upgrade the Albury Court House which will include additional custodial courtrooms, judges’ chambers, amenities, jury assembly space and refurbishment of the registry; and $8.6 million in 2020-21 to continue the upgrade of the Queanbeyan Court House, providing a full refurbishment of the courthouse and facilitating integration into the broader precinct.
A further $7.5 million has been granted for the establishment of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre in Dubbo to treat people that have become dependent upon alcohol or drugs, while $11.6 million has been dedicated in 2020-21 for the ongoing reform of the fee structure of private practitioners engaged with Legal Aid NSW.
Elsewhere, $160.5 million has been promised in 2020-21 ($538 million over four years) to reduce domestic and family violence reoffending and support victim safety through the continuation of early intervention initiatives, victim support and perpetrator interventions, while $3.1 million has been dedicated to boost frontline services for those at risk of domestic violence as part of the NSW government’s response to the pandemic; and $169.4 million investment over four years will be handed down to provide vital mental health services across the state.
Meanwhile, the budget has committed a 3.5 per cent increase in funding for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, 1.1 per cent increase in funding for the Crown Solicitor’s Office, a 20.1 per cent increase in funding for the Office of the Children’s Guardian and a 3.7 per cent increase for the Judicial Commission of NSW.
Commenting off the back of the budget roll-out, NSW Law Society president, Richard Harvey said: “The funding increases for our state’s justice system are welcomed, given the NSW Government’s most urgent priorities have been to respond simultaneously to the COVID-19 health crisis and set the state on a path to economic recovery.”
“The Law Society understands the need to create jobs, support businesses and reinforce our health system as part of its COVID-19 recovery plan, but we are also mindful the pandemic has placed immense pressure on the vulnerable people in our community and, in turn, on our justice system.
“We also acknowledge that the NSW budget has a $16 billion deficit, and the Government does not expect it will return to surplus until 2024-25.”
Further, Mr Harvey noted that much of the law and justice funding detailed in the 2020-21 budget papers has previously been announced over recent months or is recurrent funding for measures announced in previous budgets.
“As the economy recovers, we look forward to continuing to work with the Government to secure further funding commitments for our state’s justice system to deliver efficiencies which can reduce the backlogs and delays in our courts which have been exacerbated by the pandemic, improve access to justice for vulnerable people, and reduce incarceration rates, particularly for Indigenous Australians,” he added.