Queensland Law Society

Peak law groups call for increase in federal legal aid funding

Queensland’s peak law groups have described the state’s legal aid system as being in a state of crisis due to a lack of federal funding and that justice was being denied to thousands of people each year.

Queensland Law Society president Bill Potts said successive federal governments had ripped hundreds of millions of dollars from legal aid, crippling a vital justice safety net.

Bar Association of Queensland president Christopher Hughes QC said the legal aid system was at present in a state of crisis and justice was being denied to thousands of people each year.

“It is a fundamental component of the rule of law that access to justice be available to all," he said.

“Nevertheless, the funding of legal aid has been neglected by successive government of all political persuasions for far too long now.  The legal aid system is in crisis.”

Mr Potts said Commonwealth funding for Legal Aid Queensland was reduced by $1.5 million this financial year following a $3 million cut last year.

“The lack of sustainable and increasing funding for legal aid is one of the most significant problems facing the Queensland and Federal justice system," Mr Potts said.

“The system is now at a point where most Queenslanders who can’t afford a lawyer simply won’t get one – in many cases even if they are living below the poverty line. This crisis is ruining lives."

Mr Hughes QC said access to justice was a right that should be enjoyed by all citizens and not merely those who can afford it.

“I have been deeply concerned about the legal aid funding crisis for some time now," he said.

“Whichever party wins the July election, it is time for the government to accept that legal aid funding is now a critically urgent priority.  It can no longer be treated as a luxury that governments can choose to let fall into disrepair – it is far too important.”

Australians can get involved and tell their local MP that legal aid matters by visiting the campaign website: legalaidmatters.org.au.

ENDS

For further information, please contact Tony Keim on 07 3842 5835, mobile 0488 433 884 or via email, media@qls.com.au.