I move the amendment on sheet 7965: (1) Amendment (1), item 32A, at the end of subsection (5), add: ; or (c) there is evidence that at least one parent or guardian of the person has means to appoint a lawyer to act for the person. The amendment proposed by the government is designed to give access to court-appointed legal aid to anyone aged between 14 and 17 years who is charged where they do not already have legal assistance. The view of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party is that this should only apply after their parents or guardians have been means tested, satisfying the courts that they do not have the means to provide the assistance themselves to their own children.
I understand Senator Brandis’s comments about how quickly the matters need to be dealt with in the courts. I quite understand that. My question goes back to the fact that if a child between the ages of 14 and 17 is brought before the courts on a terrorism charge, then I believe that the parents have to take some responsibility. I understand what Senator Xenophon said—that the parents may not have any control over the child—and I do believe that that is the case in a lot of cases in many areas. But, then again, someone has to start taking responsibility, and in many other areas parents are responsible for their children, so why not in this area? I raise the issue too because, under the legal aid that you are able to apply for in Australia, it states that you do not have to be an Australian citizen to get legal aid in Australia—that is one point. We have seen legal aid funding decline in Australia from approximately just over $11 per person to just over $7 per person.
We have many Australians in Australia who cannot get legal aid, especially in the family law courts. Because we do not have that funding, they do not have that access to legal aid, so they are self-represented and the courts are tied up with dealing with these people who do not know how to represent themselves on the floor of a court. In many cases, from the decisions that are made or through pure frustration, we see suicides at the rate of between four to five a day in Australia. Under ‘applying for legal aid’ it states that, if a person is being supported by another, that person’s support, whether it be a partner, comes after a means-test for their legal aid. I will go back to the point Senator Brandis said. It is a matter of urgency by all means, but what is stopping the government or the department from pursuing cost recovery of the persons, whether they be a guardian or a parent? We have to start being responsible to the Australian people. You cannot have one side where Australians cannot get legal aid because they are means-tested. We have lives at stake here, and we have to be responsible in the courts. Everyone has to be responsible for their own actions, and we are talking about terrorism. These are people who are going out there with the intention of doing harm to Australians, and I do not want to see my tax dollars wasted on these people. Bring them to trial, throw them in prison and get rid of them out of the country if that be the case. But, the whole fact is, we actually have to start showing some equality on both sides of the fence, whether it be for Australians or anyone in our system.
Source: Parliament of Australia Senate Speech 2017 Matters of Public Importance