Reinstatement of previous funding appreciated: QLS
24 April 2017
QLS President Christine Smyth has welcomed the news that the federal government will abandon planned funding cuts to Community Legal Centres in the upcoming budget, noting that the decision means that society’s most vulnerable people will continue to be able to access justice.
“Community Legal Centres in Queensland are already forced to turn away 160 000 people a year-that’s more than the MCG crowd at the Boxing Day test,” she said. “Had these funding cuts been maintained, tens of thousands of people would have been effectively unable to access their basic legal rights.”
President Smyth said that the Queensland Law Society had been relentless in its lobbying for a reversal of the cuts, and she was glad that the government was listening.
“The fact that the government took on board the Society’s submissions and changed its mind is pleasing, although it is regrettable that the cuts were proposed in the first place. We are all aware that current economic conditions require some austerity measures, but you can’t tighten your belt if you don’t have one; a country like Australia should always be able to protect its most vulnerable people.”
Ms Smyth said that she hoped the government’s decision was an indication that there may be opportunity for further discussion on legal funding and other issues important to the legal profession.
“It is nice to see the government listening to the Queensland Law Society, and we remain open to further dialogue on this and other important issues. It needs to be born in mind that while we have avoided going over the funding cliff, we are still standing on the edge.”
She said that given the growing need, simply maintaining the current funding was a case of one step forward, two steps back.
It will maintain rather than expand services to deal with the most vulnerable people in our society."
"We need to grow the funding to help people who are suffering problems of unemployment, housing and issues relating to their families."
Ms Smyth also noted that hard working lawyers and volunteers in the sector want to give fellow Australians a hand up rather than a hand out.
"Please Mr Attorney General, may the people have more?"