The Queensland Budget has proven to be a much needed and long overdue funding boon in justice investment, according to Queensland’s peak legal body.
Queensland Law Society President Bill Potts on Tuesday (June 11) said the government had delivered a veritable “funding bonanza’’ on a wide range of important issues such as an investment in court infrastructure ($57.7m), Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal ($13.1m) and Youth Justice ($550m).
However, Mr Potts said it was extremely disappointing there was insufficient extra funding for the legal assistance sector and Legal Aid Queensland and the creation of yet another men’s correctional centre in the Lockyer Valley.
“This is certainly a justice investment Budget and QLS thinks the government should be praised for the much needed funding to crucial areas such as Youth Justice, child protection, the Queensland courts and QCAT,’’ Mr Potts said.
“This level of justice investment has been a very long time coming and been seriously overlooked by successive governments, both state and federal, for far too long.
“I am happy to say this Budget is something the criminal justice system and the legal profession needs and has been crying out for many, many years.’’
The myriad justice initiatives announced in the 2019-20 State Budget include:
- $57.7m over 4 years to respond to increasing demand on state courts;
- 13.1m to respond to frontline demand pressures and increase sessional members remuneration in QCAT;
- $10.6m additional for Office of the Public Guardian and QCAT to address increased workloads from the rollout of the NDIS;
- $9.5m to commence implementation of the information, communication and technology strategy in the justice portfolio which the QLS hopes will include upgrades to court IT system;
- $3.9m for priority maintenance at Queensland courts – with and additional $4.8 mil over 2 years for capital upgrades;
- $5m to establish a Murri Court at Ipswich;
- $517.5m over 4 years for family support and child protection, including $27m for the Office of Public Guardian to continue to deliver protection to children in care and vulnerable adults and a $13.5m increase for child protection litigation services by the Director of Child Protection Litigation;
- $5.8m for the Queensland Human Rights Commission to support the introduction of the Human Rights Act 2019;
- $42.8m increase for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and $12m a year to respond to increased workload;
- $17.3m for Crown Law to provide advice to the Attorney-General on the Dangerous Prisoners Sexual Offences Act 2003 and representation before the Mental Health Review Tribunal;
- $19.1m increase to expand community justice groups;
- $15.3m increase to Victims Assist Queensland to provide support to victims of crime and to assist in the processing of claims and backlog;
- $18.5m increase to support the Townsville community youth response;
- $27.5m increase for restorative justice conferences in the youth justice system;
- $15m to establish three new community youth responses to address youth crime hotspots in Brisbane, Ipswich and Cairns;
- $1.7m to establish youth justice program management office to provide a whole a government response to youth justice issues: and
- $2.3m for the Queensland youth partnerships initiative.
Mr Potts said the Attorney-General needed to be congratulated for convincing the Treasury to open its coffers for a much needed lifeline to the criminal justice system.
“We have campaigned long and hard for much of the funding announced in the Budget and will continue to do so for good law, good lawyers and the public good,’’ he said.
“It is pleasing the government is listening to the voice of lawyers in Queensland and we hope that fruitful relationship will continue to blossom overtime.’’
He said QLS stood ready to assist the government to ensure all Queenslanders had proper legal representation and access to justice.