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Self Interest Driving Legal Aid Claims

"Strident protestations from the legal profession and ridiculous claims that battered woman will no longer have access to legal services are nothing more than scare-mongering driven by self interest," Justice Minister, Tony Ryall, said today.

"In my nine years in Parliament I have learned that if you ever take one dollar off any group they run to the media claiming the sky will fall in," said Mr Ryall.

"Next year the legal profession will receive around $90 million of precious taxpayer funds through the legal aid budget. There’s a real risk this may in fact blow out to $100 million.

"Since 1993 the bill for legal aid has ballooned from $59 million to $94 million this year, and would grow still further without action from the Government.

"Taxpayers need to know that sort of money is being spent wisely and is going to help those people who really need it.

"The Legal Services Board has reduced reimbursement rates for senior lawyers to between $110 - $165 per hour. In some instances that rate is still nearly double the rates paid to lawyers in Australia.

"The Board, in consultation with the legal profession, has decided to reduce the number of hours lawyers will be paid to settle some disputes, and has increased the allowable preparation time for some cases. Experience shows the hours taken to do a job expand to meet the hours we agree to pay for that job.

"The changes will increase availability of legal assistance to those in need while containing expenditure to a reasonable level.

"I am advised by the Legal Services Board that the overall financial impact of these changes will be neutral," said Mr Ryall.

ENDS

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