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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 7 Hansard (2 July) . . Page.. 2219 ..

MR HARGREAVES (continuing):

So, Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, with respect to the prison, I guess I ask essentially two questions: Will the $300,000 or $400,000 be enough, and will the Government accept the committee's recommendation on the immediacy of acceptance of an expression of interest in project direction in the spirit in which it was intended and proceed to advertise and evaluate?

MS TUCKER (8.57): I would like to comment firstly on the issue of legal aid. I did raise some concerns with the Minister about how the increased pressures on legal aid have impacted on women in their ability to get access for support, particularly for property matters, because there was a national report recently released which expressed concern about this matter. I am interested in seeing some kind of evaluation done actually, if there is a relationship. I am happy to give that report to Mr Humphries - I think it would be useful - so that he is aware of the concerns that have been raised nationally.

What it leads to is that there needs to be an evaluation or an interest taken if the pressures on legal aid have led to one particular client group, one particular type of issue, being disadvantaged. The Minister did answer my question, saying that he believed it was not a result of reduced funding, that there were fewer women accessing assistance for property settlements particularly, but that it could be due to community apprehension over new Commonwealth funding approvals. I would like to suggest, if that indeed is the case, that there obviously is an easy remedy to that. The remedy is that you do some kind of public education work to encourage women to continue to access support, if that indeed is the reason for the decrease.

The other comment I want to make is that I do have some concerns about the increase in court costs. I have covered already the issue of equity implications for revenue initiatives in this budget, but I want to express concern that the increase in court costs could affect people who can least afford court action and for whom legal representation and court appearances become more of a burden.

I am supporting the increase in funding to the DPP. I think that is a useful thing, so I am not being entirely negative, Mr Humphries. Once again, I am measuring and considering the issues, hopefully. I also do not have a problem with the capsicum spray. It seems like a good alternative to lethal force. On the other hand, I am concerned to see that the AFP officers are going to be issued with semiautomatic weaponry, which does not seem to sit with the desire to reduce accidents or fatalities, which I thought the capsicum spray was to avoid.

MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (9.00): I will be quite short. There are a number of issues that I would like to raise. There were a number of issues in the Estimates Committee report relating to Justice and Community Safety that we should comment on. Recommendation No. 38 suggested to the Government that it consult with the local land council, with Aboriginal specific services, with local Aboriginal elders and in the Aboriginal media in relation to the Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee. It is pleasing to see that the Government has been consulting with the Aboriginal community in relation to the AJAC. I must say that the Government's

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