• Labor, the Greens and Jacqui Lambie called on the Coalition to reverse funding cuts. (NITV News)Source: NITV News
Labor, the Greens and Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie have joined forces to call on the Coalition to reverse funding cuts to community legal services.
By
Source:
NITV News
27 Mar 2017 - 5:18 PM  UPDATED 27 Mar 2017 - 5:19 PM

The Federal Opposition has called on the government to reverse looming funding cuts to community legal services. 

Backed by the Greens and Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie, the Labor Party has asked the Coalition to not go ahead with the thirty per cent cut. 

Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus says community legal centres serve the most disadvantaged people across the country.

"They serve people who cannot afford to see a lawyer, they serve people who do not qualify for Legal Aid for some means testing, they are very much among them victims or survivors of family violence," he said. 

Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie says denying justice to the most vulernable Australians is a disgrace. 

"We live in a lucky country and these people should have the right to legal representation, whether you have money or not," she said. 

"Leave these people who are on welfare alone. Stop sledging them with a hammer, it's enough. Let them have the justice and the right to prove their cases in a court of law if that's what it takes, free of charge." 

Greens Senator Nick McKim says this is about access to justice for some of the most vulnerable people in our country. 

"Unfortunately people who don't have the money find it difficult or impossible access justice, and that can come if they've been a victim of domestic violence, it can come for a range of reasons," he said. 

"But for this government to continue forward with these shockingly large cuts to CLCs, and these have been on the agenda for some time now. The government's known this funding cliff is coming and they have done precisely nothing to address it and some of our most vulernable in the country are gonna miss out on access to justice as a result of this government's cruel and callous cuts." 

Cuts would have 'a devastating impact'

CEO of the National Association of Community Legal Centres, Nassim Arrage, says the cuts will have a devastating impact.  

"Some community legal centres will need to close and others will have to cut back on the essential frontline services that they provide," he said. 

Mr Dreyfus says Aboriginal Legal Services are even more vulnerable. 

"Now is not the time, a time of rising imprisonment rates of Aboriginal people, to be cutting the funding that is going to Aboriginal Legal Services," he said. 

While the cuts will see more than $30 million slashed from budgets over the next three years, Labor welcomes the Prime Minister's decision to overturn his government's firm opposition to establishing a target on closing the gap on Indigenous incarceration. 

The funding cuts are expected by July 1. 

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Comment: Reversing legal aid cuts isn't enough to ensure access to justice
The demand for government-funded legal services is large and growing. Simply “not cutting” these services does the community a grave disservice. More must be done.