NEW England Greens candidate Mercurius Goldstein said while Attorney-General George Brandis tried “to talk away” planned cuts for community legal centres, Member for New England Barnaby Joyce had not prevented them from happening, despite being ‘at the table’.
But Mr Joyce has hit back, saying there were no cuts to community legal centre funding or Indigenous legal assistance providers, other than the Government ceasing to fund Environmental Defenders’ Offices in 2013-14.
“The Australian Government has committed $1.6 billion over five years under a National Partnership Agreement (NPA with States and Territories and agreements with Indigenous legal assistance providers,” Mr Joyce said.
“Over the life of the NPA, legal aid funding will in fact increase by $12 million or 6 per cent. In this year’s Budget, the government also provided an extra $30 million to frontline legal assistance services for victims of family violence, and restored $25.5 million in March 2015 to the legal assistance sector."
However Mr Goldstein insisted the cuts to legal assistance to be another setback for New England. “Community legal centres still face a 30 per cent cut in their operating budgets from the middle of next year,” Mr Goldstein said.
“We are talking about cuts to community legal services that reach Armidale, Glen Innes, Tenterfield, Inverell, Tingha, Walcha, and Tamworth.”
Mr Joyce said Mr Goldstein’s comments proved the Labor/Greens/Independent alliance was alive and well, with the Greens in lockstep with Labor when it comes to spreading misinformation about community legal centre funding.