Northern Territory Labor Senator Nova Peris kicked off her second week in Parliament by questioning the Attorney-General on cuts to Indigenous legal aid.
Brooke Boney

19 Nov 2013 - 4:06 PM  UPDATED 19 Nov 2013 - 6:15 PM

It had been announced that funding would be reduced by $42 million but the Government now says it might reverse that decision.

In the Senate Estimates Hearing on Legal Affairs today, the Government conceded there's no way of knowing if cutting that funding will affect frontline services in Indigenous communities.

“It would be impossible for us to estimate exactly how much effort goes into precisely that issue, because the program now is fused there's no separate allocation for that,” says Kym Duggan from the  Attorney-General's Department.

Greens Senator Penny Wright says core legal aid services could be affected if the cuts are not prevented.

“These cuts would apply to frontline services too, there is not a way to quarantine frontline services from broader law reform and policy issues,” says Senator Wright.

However, the Secretary of the Attorney-General's Department Roger Williams says they might not follow through with the cuts at all.

“I think it's probably a bit premature to conclude that anything's going to be cut out of legal assistance, it's still very much an issue in place in the budget,” says Mr Williams.

But the Attorney General, Senator George Brandis, reiterated the budget is the foremost concern of the Abbott government and some programs will therefore have to be cut.

“It will be necessary for savings to be found across the public sector to deal with the unprecedented level of public debt. One of the reasons the new government was elected was to deal with this and we mean to,” says Senator Brandis,

NITV News also asked the Attorney General's department about what impact a funding cut could have on growing Indigenous imprisonment rates, but we were told it would be too expensive to find out.

Indigenous Australians are jailed at 15 times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians.