Page 278 - Week 01 - Thursday, 17 February 2011

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industry in particular, about how they should look, how they feel and how they should behave. As a mother of daughters, I am extraordinarily disappointed in the performance of this minister in this statement.

Leave of absence

Motion (by Mr Corbell) agreed to:

That leave of absence be granted to Ms Gallagher (Deputy Chief Minister) for this sitting due to her attendance at a Ministerial Council meeting interstate.

Legal Aid Amendment Bill 2010

Debate resumed from 18 November 2010, on motion by Mr Corbell:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (12.00): The Liberal opposition will be supporting this bill which makes a number of amendments to extend officer indemnity, clarify powers of the Legal Aid Commission in relation to client contributions to costs and to update a definition. The first of these three elements extends the indemnity in court proceedings currently provided to legal aid officers so that it covers assistance provided to persons other than under this act.

At present it could be argued, for example, that an officer of ACT Legal Aid appearing in court for a client of New South Wales Legal Aid may not be protected by the indemnity provisions of the ACT Legal Aid Act. This is uncertain—I am not entirely convinced that it is the case—but this amendment makes it abundantly clear that indemnity extends to situations such as that.

The second amendment provides that the financial contribution made by a client to the costs of proceedings can be varied according to the client’s circumstances as they may change during the proceedings. Currently, the act refers to a specified amount, which might be interpreted to mean that the amount to be contributed will remain static for the period of the proceedings. However, I note the explanatory statement claims that the provision has already been interpreted to allow variation to the specified amount. To that extent, this amendment will not change the operation of the act.

However, it also makes it quite clear that, if a client’s financial circumstances do change during proceedings, a call could be made to contribute to the extent that that change might allow. This potentially would relieve the pressure on the budget of the legal aid office, thus extending their capacity to assist others.

The final amendment changes the stated definition of “private legal practitioner” so that it now refers to the definition in the Legal Profession Act 2006. I did have a concern that it was not immediately clear that the definition captures barrister, which is specified in the present definition in the Legal Aid Act. Indeed, I asked for a map that shows how barristers are included in this definition.

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