Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (12 March) . . Page.. 935 ..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
the ACT legal aid service-recently opened. Have you had any reports on demand for this service?
MR STANHOPE: No, Ms Dundas, I have not received any formal reports or feedback on the operations of the youth centre. I think it is a wonderful initiative. I believe it has the potential to provide a wonderful service for young people across the spectrum. I was very pleased to open it, and I wish it every success. I have no information about its utility or its success, or on the extent to which young people are seeking to access its services. I would be more than happy to obtain from my department a report on the operations of the youth centre and to provide that to you and to members of the Assembly.
MS DUNDAS: Minister, I understand that there has been a strong demand for this service. I would be interested in any concrete figures you can get. But I would like to know why the government has not contributed funding to ensure the ongoing viability of this youth legal service.
MR STANHOPE: As I indicated, I am more than happy to seek all the details about the uptake, acknowledging that the youth centre has been open for four or five weeks. The department of justice, through its relationship with the youth centre, would have every opportunity, I am sure, to obtain whatever information is publicly available on the utility and uptake. It is a wonderful joint initiative by Clayton Utz, the Law Society and students at the ANU, with significant support from the Legal Aid Commission of the ACT.
It was with great pleasure that a week or two before I opened the Canberra youth centre I also opened the Canberra Consumer Law Centre, a new legal service provided for residents of the ACT. Why we have not funded the youth centre is a question of how long a piece of string is, what our available resources are and what other priorities the government faces and will continue to face.
I would always like anybody in this place asking a question of government about why they did not spend money on this or that to indicate in the question which service they recommend we might cut to find the funds to fund this or that initiative? In an environment in which, as the Treasurer has indicated, we have lost $90 million on investments, the Grants Commission has reduced funding by $15 million, we have lost at least between $20 million and $30 million in the fire and our levels of expenditure are growing at a far greater rate than our revenue, I am asked, "Why did you not fund this?"I was not asked, "Why did you fund that?"or "What might you not fund in the future?"
I think it would be a nice discipline for those who seek to keep the government accountable to suggest to us from time to time what we might cut. I have heard Ms Tucker over the last couple of weeks endorse the need for greater revenue and for more taxes. But I do not very often hear suggestions about what we might cut. It is an interesting discipline that should apply.
There is whole range of additional legal services that one would like to provide. Legal aid is grievously underfunded. The Women's Legal Centre needs more funding. It struggles for additional funding. The Consumer Law Centre, an initiative of this