Top lawyers look at strike action for legal aid
TOP lawyers are preparing to launch a nation-wide campaign to boost dwindling government funding for legal aid, and they want High Court judges on side.
Victorian barrister David Neal says Australians are afforded only $28 per capita for legal aid - about a third as much as in the UK, despite massive cuts made in that country since 2010.
The National Criminal Law Committee member called for lawyers to emulate Britain's Justice Alliance movement that forced the government to abandon many of the more severe cuts it had proposed.
He said a national day of action with work stoppages, protests outside court houses, social media and letter writing campaigns needed to begin soon.
"We would like to engage the judiciary. It would be great if we could get a number of High Court judges to attend those stopwork meetings," Mr Neal said.
"The campaign should start in September because that's when the departments start creating their budgets.
"We've got to make a bit of noise and we have to make it hurt if they don't."
Mr Neal said Australia's commitment to true justice had become more myth than reality since the 1970s.
"Today, you do not get legal aid in Magistrates Courts for representation unless you are likely to go to jail," he said.
"There are so many worthy causes competing for these dollars. We have to find ways to make it costly for the government not to do it."