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Bill to tackle legal aid growth passes first reading

Hon Simon Power
Minister of Justice

16 August 2011 Media Statement

Bill to tackle legal aid growth passes first reading

Justice Minister Simon Power is encouraging the public to have their say on a bill which is designed to get the legal aid growth curve under control while ensuring access to justice.

The Legal Assistance (Sustainability) Amendment Bill passed its first reading in Parliament today and has been sent to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee for public submissions.

The bill, along with operational changes already under way (including the expansion of the Public Defence Service), is designed to save $138 million over four years by tightening the eligibility criteria for legal aid, changing how legal aid services are purchased, and increasing the payment obligations of legally aided clients.

“This bill is needed to prevent a $402 million budget blow-out in legal aid over five years, after legal aid expenditure rose by 55 per cent, from $111 million in 2006/07 to $172 million in 2009/10,” Mr Power said.

“The changes will not affect cases involving vulnerable parties, care and protection of children, and serious criminal matters, and will incentivise parties to resolve more minor matters between themselves rather than through the courts.”

Mr Power said Budget 2011 included $103.5 million in short-term funding, while longer-term sustainability issues are addressed, both through this bill and a wider review of the purpose of legal aid and associated costs drivers, predominantly in the Family Court.

Previous announcements on legal aid can be found here.


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