I applaud the Coalition for standing up for the victims of DV in court. However, the Legal Aid professionals who will take on the task are already stretched to the limit. They need greater funding. That wasn’t part of their announcement.
Labor welcomes the government’s belated announcement that it will introduce legislation to prevent domestic violence victims from being cross-examined by their abusers.
This awful practice has been allowed to go on for far too long, giving perpetrators the chance to re-traumatise their victims through the court system.
The government has been incredibly slow to act on calls for reform – it’s four years since the Productivity Commission called for this change to happen and nearly two years since COAG called for the cross-examination of victims to be eliminated.
In November 2016, Labor announced its policy for cross-examination reform which included $43 million for Legal Aid to take on the representation of unrepresented perpetrators.
Legal Aid lawyers are already stretched to their absolute limit. Under the government’s proposals, they must now also take on unrepresented perpetrators when directed or requested to do so by a judge. There is no way this extra workload can be taken on without extra funding.
Christian Porter needs to explain how he expects Legal Aid to meet this extra demand without any extra funding, and should detail the consultation he has had with the sector on this issue.
It is incredibly important that this overdue change is given the resources necessary for it to work.
Domestic violence victims can wait no longer.