It is a fact that the ‘poorest of the poor’ in this country will probably continue to get Legal Aid if they really need it, at least for now. Likewise, the ‘relatively wealthy’ can afford private law firms. Though what about the average Australian on $45k-$70k per annum with little savings, a mortgage and a car loan?
While the Federal and State Governments can ‘spin’ cuts to the Legal Aid system in letters like this, the reality is that this new change puts yet another roadblock in the way of those who need government funded assistance the most. There has never been a lot of Legal Aid funding to go around; now there is even less. Normal, hard working people on average incomes are falling through the cracks.
Did you know that in the UK, Legal Aid has (pretty much) been removed altogether for family law clients, and funding for criminal law clients has been cut by 50%?
I truly hope it doesn’t get to that stage in Australia as we will see injustice everywhere we look. If any of you feel like lobbying on this issue, please go ahead. We all need to. We certainly don’t want (more?) people going to jail when they shouldn’t, simply because of an ill funded or non existent defence lawyer. Likewise, I can see domestic violence and abuse cases in family law becoming an even bigger problem now.
If we were doctors we would be able to pull on the general public’s heartstrings to stir up action over this. (Note that the Medicare $7 co-payment has now been scrapped.) Lawyers will never receive this support as people simply assume complaining about legal aid cuts means we are complaining about being paid less.
I feel very sorry for the average Aussie on $50k pa who is charged with a crime they say they didn’t commit. They will be the hardest hit. Likewise, the person on a similar income whose husband beats them and the kids daily. They can’t afford us, and now they are unlikely to get Legal Aid either, especially if the abuse is not immediately evident or they have their name on the title to a house (regardless of how little equity they have).
Please, write to your local polly and raise some hell. This is going to get worse. It won’t affect HHG because we don’t take Legal Aid funding. But it will affect so many others, maybe even you.
Simon Creek MD