The motion included that:
- The Australian Government’s share of funding compared with the states has dropped from 55% in 1996-97 to 32% in 2017-18, and is forecast to drop further in 2019-20.
- While 14% of the population live below the poverty line in Australia, only 6% of those below the line would actually qualify for legal aid.
The result is that many people facing legal problems can’t afford a lawyer, and therefore do not receive the representation required to help turn their lives around. This can lead to a pattern of reoffending and escalation into more serious matters, which also represent a greater cost to the taxpayer and community.
“The Senate recognises Australia’s legal aid sector is in deep crisis. Today’s motion makes that absolutely clear,” said Morry Bailes, President of the Law Council of Australia.
“On behalf of all Australians who will engage with our justice system, we urge the Australian Government to heed the Senate’s concerns and ensure that we all have equality before the law.”