Parliamentary record : Part I debates (27 February 1990)
Debates for 5th Assembly 1987 - 1990; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 5th Assembly 1987 - 1990
Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
Northern Territory Legislative Assembly
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Tuesday 27 February 1990 appointed members to represent government, private and community interests. The function of the commission is to provide legal aid in accordance with the act. The commission will have all powers necessary to carry out this function and, in carrying out its function, the commission will be required by clause 9 to ensure certain matters. One of the prime constraints on the commission is provided in clause 9(3). Effectively, this provides that the commission can provide legal aid only to the extent that its funds permit. Clause 9(1) sets out further duties of the commission. Honourable members will see that, inca rryi ng out its function, the commi s s ion is required to cooperate fully with the private legal profession. I am happy to say that the private profession fully supports the government's proposal with respect to legal aid. Quite simply, the delivery of legal aid cannot work without the involvement and the goodwill of the private profession. Lawyers who are willing to provide legal aid services will receive only a fixed percentage of.the cost they are entitled to charge. Part III provides for the establishment and functions of Legal Aid Committees. A Legal Aid Committee will be the actual body that considers every application for legal aid. It will be a small 3-member body and its function is to ensure that applications for legal aid are granted in accordance with the criteria adopted by the commission. This is the means test that I referred to earlier. Part IV provides for the officers of the commission. The' day-to-day operations of the commission will be under the supervision of the Director of Lega 1 Aid. The di rector will be supported by a staff of 1 awyers and admi ni strat i ve personne 1 . Just what sta ff and personne 1 are neces sa ry to carry out the funct ions is to be determi ned by the commi ss ion' in consultation with the Public Service Commissioner. Part V provides for the delivery of legal aid by the commission. The structure will be as follows. The commission will make known its existence and its legal services. A person seeking legal aid will apply to the commission. That application will be referred to a Legal Aid Committee and determi ned in accordance wi th gui de 1 i nes adopted. Provi s i on of 1 ega 1 aid can be va ri ed or termi nated in accordance wi th the act. One key feature is that provided by clause 26. The commission may give legal aid to a person whose interests are contrary to those of the Northern Territory. Instead of providing legal advice and representation itself, under clause 29 the commission can arrange for legal services to be provided by private legal practitioners. Part VI deals with the review of decisions to refuse to provide legal aid or to provide legal aid subject to conditions which the applicant finds unacceptable. The mechanism for dealing with this is that a review committee consisting of 3 persons will be created pursuant to clause 34. Part VII provides for the finances of the commission. Clause 39 creates a legal aid fund into which moneys can be paid by the Territory and Commonwealth governments. This fund can be used only to provide legal aid. By clause 40, a contingency legal aid fund is established. As honourable members will be aware, the bulk of the legal aid dollar tends to go to either criminal or family law matters. Limited financial assistance is' available to assist people with civil claims. Most people in today's society 1 ive between the extremes of those who qual ify for legal aid' and those who have sufficient resources to finance civil litigation themselves. These people are nei ther ri ch nor poor. However, a day in court exposes them to a serious financial risk. Quite often, they simply cannot afford it. 8813
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