Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 13 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 4289 ..
MR STANHOPE: Well, what is their view on the extent to which a provision such as this will have a genuine impact on the access of poorer people to justice? There are genuine access to justice issues in everything we do that relates to the courts. You are imposing a charge of $650. What if most lawyers around town tell you they cannot do this job for $650?
Mr Humphries: We will have to increase it, will we not?
MR STANHOPE: Well, no, you probably will not increase it. You should not be waiting until after the event to be told. You should know now where this slots into the scheme of things. What if they tell you that this is 31/2 hours work at the standard Supreme Court rate?
Mr Humphries: Good work if you can get it. I wish I was earning that much money an hour.
MR STANHOPE: It is. Maybe it is good work if you can get it, but that is what they get. It is 31/2 hours work. I bet there is more than 31/2 hours work in a basic, standard application for criminal injuries compensation. You just think about this. What happens? Who misses out? Whom do lawyers stop representing? When a poor person goes along and says, "Look, I've had this injury and I want to be represented. How much is it going to cost?", the lawyer says, "Well, $650 is all I can charge, but I'm not really prepared to do the work for that". I know the people who do get represented, the people who do have access to justice, and you know who they are. It is not the poor people. You know that the richer people in the community always manage to be represented. They always get their way there. It is the poorer people who cannot get to the courts.
I think this is a pretty sloppy way of deciding a maximum cost for a matter such as this. There has been no investigation of how much a standard matter costs in the ACT. You have just dropped it on us this evening. You have not checked with the Law Society. It is just incredibly sloppy. You do not even know the implications of it. I can tell you one implication of this - poorer people once again will be pushed to the edge. Poorer people once again will not have access to this service. That is what this sort of approach means if lawyers do come and say, "Look, I can't do the job for $650", and we do not know whether that is the case or not. We simply do not know.
MR SPEAKER: Gentlemen, we are not going to find out at a quarter to four in the morning either.
MR STANHOPE: We wanted this matter adjourned, Mr Speaker. I do not think you should continue to upbraid us for debating these issues out.
MR SPEAKER: I am not. I am just drawing your attention to the fact that this is not a matter that can be easily resolved at this hour.