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Indigenous legal aid cuts must not go ahead

Media Release
Rachel Siewert 19 Nov 2013

Prime Minister Tony Abbott must urgently clarify if he intends to reverse his party's election promise to make multi-million dollar cuts to indigenous legal aid, say the Australian Greens.

The Attorney General's Department last night confirmed frontline services could not be isolated from the $42 million cut to indigenous legal aid funding under questioning from Senator Rachel Siewert and Senator Penny Wright.

"If these cuts go ahead, it's a sure thing more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will end up in jail because they won't be getting quality advice," said Senator Siewert, Greens spokesperson on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Issues.

"Aboriginal people are already shamefully over-represented in our prison system and this Government made a commitment to start addressing it.

"For a man who promised to be the first Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs, cutting legal aid is a shocking start," Senator Siewert said.

Australian Greens Legal Affairs spokesperson Senator Wright said the Government was creating confusion in the legal aid sector by continually changing their story.

"The Coalition originally tried to claim this money would only affect advocacy services, now they're creating huge uncertainty by saying it may not happen at all and it's all still part of the budget process," Senator Wright said.

"This is despite the fact the Coalition's pre-election costings had the cuts starting this financial year.

"It's time for Mr Abbott to state for once and for all that he will not cut indigenous legal aid and get serious about reducing the shameful incarceration rates of Australia's indigenous people."

Video footage of the hearing is available here.

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