Page 3140 - Week 08 - Thursday, 25 June 2009
regulation, access arrangements, utilities regulation and competitive neutrality complaints. It is important, therefore, that the Assembly support the work of the ICRC and the recommendations it puts forward. A recent recommendation in the ICRC’s report No 3 of 2009 was to increase electricity concessions. We see this as vital to protect low income earners and the disadvantaged from rising electricity prices. We look forward to seeing that recommendation being taken up by the government. The ACT Greens will be supporting the funding provided in the appropriation bill for the Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission and congratulate it on its work.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Proposed expenditure—Part 1.24—Legal Aid Commission (ACT), $8,020,000 (net cost of outputs) and $2,269,000 (capital injection), totalling $10,289,000.
MS BRESNAN (Brindabella) (1.39 am): I would just like to make a few comments about the homelessness and elder law pilot project that is being supported through this budget. One of the specific initiatives that we had included into the parliamentary agreement was to provide a legal service for homeless people and people at risk of homelessness. This particular project, put together by the Legal Aid Commission with the support of community legal centres and the Aboriginal Legal Service, goes a step or two further.
The advantages of this project are that it is also about providing legal services to older people and that it will draw on federal funding. The disadvantage at this stage is that it is only a pilot project and there is no funding put aside for the outyears. I notice that, while the project is intended to encourage private legal practitioners on a pro bono basis, that contribution is not a key feature of the scheme. The argument has been quite strongly put to us that this does need to be an ongoing feature of the service, for a number of reasons.
On the one hand, it is about growing the community contribution of private legal firms in the ACT. That in itself is a good thing. There is also something there about keeping the service focused on its purpose. A funded operation such as legal aid, or any stretched community legal service, is always going to be tempted to allow some of that work to slip back into, say, the criminal law area or to be used to meet the general demands being placed on the service overall.
Pro bono work contributed by private businesses will more specifically be directed to addressing the needs of the target client group. I am pleased to see this pilot project funded, but I hope that as it develops over the next few years Canberra’s private practices make an increasingly significant contribution.
MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (1.41 am): The Legal Aid Commission for the ACT is established by the Legal Aid Act and provides a range of legal services within the territory. It is funded both by the ACT and the commonwealth government. That funding has since about 1996 been somewhat problematic, with the commonwealth funding being quarantined for commonwealth matters only, which has made the process of providing legal services through not just the ACT’s Legal Aid Commission but all state and territory legal aid commissions much more difficult and with much