Dreyfus pledges to reverse ARC Justice cuts

Federal shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus speaks to the media outside the Bendigo law courts on Tuesday. Picture: JASON WALLS
Federal shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus speaks to the media outside the Bendigo law courts on Tuesday. Picture: JASON WALLS

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An elected Labor government would fully restore $121,000 in funding to ARC Justice, federal shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus has pledged.

Mr Dreyfus made the commitment during a visit to Bendigo on Tuesday and called on the current administration to reverse the cuts, which are due to come into effect on July 1.

ARC Justice executive officer Hayley Mansfield with Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre legal practice manager Clare Sauro. Picture: JASON WALLS

ARC Justice executive officer Hayley Mansfield with Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre legal practice manager Clare Sauro. Picture: JASON WALLS

Under the changes, ARC Justice is set to lose a full-time dedicated family violence solicitor and the number of people its two community legal centres in Bendigo and the Goulburn Valley can assist is expected to fall by 240 cases per year.

“We commit to reversing these cuts, we think this funding is essential,” Mr Dreyfus said.

“We are not prepared to see a full-time family violence lawyer cut from the service.”

While Mr Dreyfus would not be drawn on specifics as to where the money would come from, he said the issue was about “funding priorities”.

“I'm not going to give you a dollar here for a dollar there, I'm going to say to you that absolutely Labor’s priorities are different,” he said.

“We would find the funding by making better decisions across the budget.”

A spokeswoman for federal Attorney-General George Brandis said Commonwealth funding for the LCCLC had increased by more than 230 per cent since 2010.

She said the government supported the important work of the legal assistance sector and was providing substantial funding to front-line services.

“Even in a resource constrained environment, the Australian government is providing over $1.6 billion for legal aid, community legal centres and Indigenous legal assistance between 2015 and 2020,” she said.

“On top of this, the Turnbull government has provided an extra $45 million for front-line legal assistance services as part of its $200 million investment to reduce violence against women and children. This is new money for new services.”

ARC Justice executive officer Hayley Mansfield said she would encourage Mr Brandis to follow Mr Dreyfus’ lead and visit the centres before the cuts took effect.