Ted Baillieu Must Support Greater Access To Justice

The Baillieu Government must review its funding into legal aid services across Victoria in order to deliver better access to justice, Shadow Attorney General Martin Pakula said today.

Mr Pakula joined hundreds of lawyers and legal professionals this morning at a rally calling on Victorian Legal Aid to reverse its decision to change legal aid guidelines that would see cuts to legal aid services.

“Victoria Legal Aid has been forced to alter its guidelines due to the failure of the Baillieu Government to provide additional financial support, with legal aid grants for youth crime matters and legal fees of lawyers expected to be affected,” Mr Pakula said.

“The Baillieu Government came to office with a tough law and order agenda and it needs to ensure that sufficient resources are available to meet its own agenda.

“The Victorian Law Institute has also stated that the Baillieu Government’s policy stance in law and order had seen an increase in the numbers of criminal charges, placing increased pressure on legal services without additional support for legal aid.

“Victoria’s own legal fraternity has stated that the right to a fair trail could be threatened if legal aid resources were stretched further and no additional financial support was received from the Baillieu Government,” Mr Pakula said.

The State Opposition on 28 November moved a reference motion in State Parliament to be referred to the Parliamentary Law Reform Committee for consideration. The reference called on the committee to investigate:

  • The level of legal aid funding
  • The adequacy of such funding in a changing legal environment
  • The role of and resources available to, community legal centres in the current environment
  • Court resourcing issues and the relationship of those issues to access to justice
  • What role the private profession can and does play in improving access to justice
  • Whether improvements in Victoria Police resourcing could have a positive impact on court times and hence access to justice

Mr Pakula said that government members had voted against Labor’s reference motion making it clear that the Attorney-General Robert Clark did not support calls for additional financial support to legal aid.

“The first step to resolving a problem is recognising there is one, and the Government’s refusal to support Labor’s motion shows they’d rather pretend everything is tickety boo” Mr Pakula said.

“If legal aid remains under funded, Victoria’s court system will grind to a halt.”