Lawyers in Australia need to be aware of a new legal aid law that could see them charged for things they don’t need, such as legal representation.
AAP/ABC News 13th April 2017 The Legal Aid Act 2017 will make it harder for low-income people to access legal advice.
It also introduces new penalties for non-compliance with the new rules.
A bill that will go before Parliament next week will set out the new law.
The law will mean lawyers will be charged a fee of $2.50 if they fail to meet the minimum number of referrals they need.
Under the new regulations, low- and moderate-income earners will also be charged $1.25 for every referral they fail.
“The Act will ensure that low- to moderate-wealth Australians are able to access a lawyer on an equal basis with those who are more affluent,” Senator Eric Abetz said.
“I hope that we can take a moment to reflect on the impact this will have on those who have to make those difficult decisions that we all know are very hard.”
He said the change was needed to ensure the rights of people with lower incomes were respected.
“This is a law that will help those people who are struggling to get access to a lawyer, who are desperate to get legal advice, but who cannot afford it, and who are living in poverty,” Senator Abetz told ABC News Breakfast.
The bill will also make it more difficult for lawyers to take a fee out of their clients’ pockets, if they don�t meet referrals, the ABC has learnt.
The legislation, which was passed in the Senate on Friday, was brought forward as part of a government-backed bill that seeks to improve access to legal services for low and moderate income earners.
The changes to the law are part of the “Better Carer” package, which also includes the introduction of a fee-for-service system.
It comes as the Coalition looks to secure a second term in the Federal Parliament.
A spokeswoman for the Attorney-General’s Department said: “The law changes are designed to increase access to justice for low income people, to provide fairness to those who need it and to make sure that lawyers have the opportunity to represent those with whom they have a relationship of trust.”
She said the changes would help ensure that “those people who need access to the highest level of justice, whether it is for legal aid or a criminal case, are afforded that opportunity.”