Monday 5 September 2016

Legal Aid without leadership for 4 months

The NSW Attorney-General left Legal Aid without a board of directors for four months earlier this year, failing one of her basic responsibilities.

Legal Aid, which provides vital legal services to disadvantaged groups, was left without a board from 17th February 2016 to 23rd June 2016 – a third of this year.

The leadership of the Legal Aid Commission is by a board appointed by the Attorney-General which then goes through a Cabinet process.

In February, the terms of all appointed members had expired and the papers for new appointments were reportedly left ‘lying on the Attorney’s desk’.

During Budget Estimates hearings today Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton refused to deny she had the appointments sitting on her desk for months and couldn’t explain why the board was left unable to function.

While Ms Upton admitted these appointments are “important”, she avoided answering the question of why the new appointments had been ignored.

The Shadow Attorney General Paul Lynch said that this displays the Government’s complete contempt for the important work done by Legal Aid. He said:

“The Attorney-General literally had years of notice of the board’s members terms expiring but she managed to forget to appoint new members. It’s incomprehensible. This is pretty basic. If you can’t trust a Minister to keep boards appointed, why would you trust them to do anything more serious?”