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Budget 2023: What lawyers need to know

One year removed from the last election, Treasurer Jim Chalmers has handed down the 2023–24 federal budget. Here are the key takeaways for Australia’s legal profession.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 09 May 2023 Politics
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In the second budget since the Albanese government was elected in the 2022 federal election, delivered earlier tonight (9 May) to the House of Representatives, Treasurer Jim Chalmers submitted what he called a budget to provide cost-of-living relief, “historic investments” in Medicare and the care economy, and embrace clean energy.

“These are the foundations on which our government is building a stronger economy and a fairer society, with greater security in a time of economic uncertainty, more opportunities in more parts of our country, and a renewed determination for Australia to make the most of the defining decade ahead,” he declared.

“Today, Australia is bigger, fairer, more diverse, more open to the world and more engaged with our region than anyone alive at Federation could possibly have imagined. And yet what brought this country together was a belief that the future could belong to Australia and that we would be stronger, safer, and more prosperous if we worked to seize its opportunities and share its rewards.”


“That optimism and resilience has sustained us — and carried us — through downturns and disaster, through recession and pandemic, and the belief in opportunity fairly shared has underpinned our greatest achievements — from Medicare to superannuation. The same spirit underpins constitutional recognition through a Voice, it drives our government, and it shapes this budget,” the Treasurer continued.

“A determination to tackle the big challenges — and seize the big chances. A deep faith in our people, their skills, their smarts, their innovation and aspiration, a plan for security, for prosperity, for growth, an economic strategy to help with costofliving pressures now, and to maximise and extend the opportunities of the future to more of our people in more parts of our country in the defining, decisive decade ahead.”

Here are the measures announced in the budget that legal professionals need to know:

Bolstered anti-money laundering framework

The budget papers list a provision of $14.3 million, over four years from 2023–24, to support policy and legislative reforms to harden Australia against illicit financing and evaluation of Australia’s anti-money laundering framework.

The funding consists of:

  • $8.6 million over three years to the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) to develop and consult stakeholders on legislative reforms to modernise Australia’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regime and support preparation for, and participation in, the evaluation of Australia’s regime against global standards by the Financial Action Task Force; and
  • $5.6 million over four years in additional departmental resourcing for the Attorney-General’s Department.
Improved family law property settlements

The Albanese government is investing $46.5 million to continue and expand two successful family law property programs, the budget papers outlined, “to support access to quick, fair and affordable family law property settlement outcomes for separating couples, especially vulnerable women”.

The investment covers $33.1 million to fund the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia and the Family Court of Western Australia to continue and expand the Family Law Priority Property Pool program nationally.

“This is to help separated couples resolve small property disputes through a streamlined court process. It supports vulnerable women to regain their financial independence and security after separation,” the budget papers noted.

In addition, the government is providing $13.4 million to extend the Lawyer-assisted Family Law Property Mediation program to assist separated couples to mediate and reach agreement on a family law property division.

Better outcomes in international child abduction matters

Moreover, to support Australia’s efforts under the Hague Convention, the budget papers provide for $18.4 million to make Australia’s implementation of the convention safer for women and children impacted by international parental child abduction.

This includes:

  • $7.4 million to introduce a financial assistance scheme to enable eligible respondent parents to have equivalent access to legal representation as applicant parents;
  • $5.3 million for a package of early alternative dispute resolution intervention measures, designed to divert families from contested Hague Convention proceedings and improve safety outcomes; and
  • $5.7 million to improve the capability of the Attorney-General’s Department to obtain and make evidence about family violence available to the courts in Hague Convention cases.
Additional resourcing for A-G’s Department

Ongoing funding has been pledged for certain governmental priorities in Mark Dreyfus’ department, including:

  • $6.2 million in 2023–24 to be met from the Confiscated Assets Account under the Proceeds of Crime Act to continue electronic surveillance legislative reform;
  • $6.1 million over four years from 2023–24 (and $1.4 million per year ongoing) for the Office of Parliamentary Counsel to increase legislative drafting capacity;
  • $3.6 million this year for Commonwealth representation before the Royal Commission into the Robodebt Scheme; and
  • $3 million over four years (and $800,000 per annum ongoing) for the Inspector of the National Anti-Corruption Commission to oversee the National Anti-Corruption Commission in accordance with the expanded functions of the Inspector in the National Anti-Corruption Commission Act as determined by the Parliament during the passage of legislation.
Establishment of federal administrative review body

$89.5 million over five years (and $1.5 million per year ongoing) will be provided to support the establishment of a new federal administrative review body, in place of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), which was abolished in December.

The funding, which has already been provided for, will cover:

  • $63.4 million over two years to appoint additional full-time members to address the backlog of AAT cases;
  • $14.4 million over five years from 2022–23 (and $1.5 million per year ongoing) for the A-G’s Department to manage the transition to the new administrative review body;
  • $11.7 million to develop a modern case-management system for the new administrative review body.
Investigating alleged war crimes

The Albanese government will, the budget papers detailed, provide $129.4 million over two years from 2023–24 to continue the work of the Office of the Special Investigator (OSI) and support the prosecution of alleged war crimes by Australian Defence Force troops in Afghanistan.

The funding, over two years from 2023–24, will include:

  • $115.1 million to enable the OSI to continue investigations;
  • $8.8 million for the Attorney-General’s Department to provide support to the OSI, including legal advice and requests for evidence from foreign jurisdictions; and
  • $5.5 million for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to consider and prosecute briefs of evidence received from the OSI.
This measure will be offset, the papers noted, by redirecting funding from the Department of Defence.

Improving sexual assault laws

As announced earlier in May, the federal government will invest $14.7 million in strengthening the way the criminal justice system responds to sexual assault and to prevent further harm from being done to victims through the justice process.

A further $8.2 million will be made available through to 2026–27 to design, deliver and evaluate multiple small-scale trials of primary prevention and early intervention concepts for the prevention of sexual harm and violence.

“Seeking justice should not add to the trauma experienced by victims and survivors,” the A-G said at the time.

“Nor should they be forced to navigate different legal processes and face different justice outcomes based on which state or territory they live in.”

Women’s safety (First Nations)

The Albanese government is also set to provide $68.6 million, over two years from 2023–24, to support family violence prevention legal services providers to deliver legal and non-legal support for First Nations victim-survivors of family, domestic and sexual violence.

It will also undertake an initial review to inform the development of a national standard for government data on lost, missing, or murdered First Nations women and children.

The cost of this measure, the budget papers outline, will be partially met from within the existing resourcing of the Department of Social Services and the National Indigenous Australians Agency’s Indigenous Advancement Strategy.

Support for migrant women and women on temporary visas

The budget papers detail an extension of the current Temporary Visa Holders Experiencing Violence Pilot to January 2025.

There will be an investment of $10 million to expand the family violence provisions within the Migration Regulations to most permanent visa subclasses so as to ensure that visa applicants, including secondary applicants for permanent visa subclasses, offshore temporary partner visa applicants and prospective marriage visa holders, “do not feel compelled to remain in a violent relationship to be granted a permanent visa”.

Other funding pledges

Elsewhere in the budget papers, the Albanese government allocated funding for the following measures:

  • $2.4 million, over two years from 2023–24, for the A-G’s Department to provide legal and policy advice for the nuclear-powered submarine program, including for the development of relevant treaties and international agreements;
  • $41 million, in the next two years, for the A-G’s Department to strengthen the country’s arrangements for high-risk terrorist offenders;
  • $1 million, in the next two years, for the A-G’s Department for stronger privacy protection and enforcement;
  • Ongoing funding of $3 million for legal assistance for flood victims in NSW and Queensland;
  • $526.5 million for the National Legal Assistance Partnership, which provides funding to all states for legal assistance services delivered by legal aid commissions, community legal centres, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services.