My adjournment matter this afternoon is for the Attorney-General, and it is in relation to funding cuts that were introduced at the beginning of last year. We are now seeing the impact of those cuts being played out in the court system.
This afternoon I want to focus on family law matters. The implications of the cuts we have seen so far include the accused not knowing the rules of evidence or what information is relevant and should be put before the court. This can result in irrelevant and sometimes prejudicial information being provided to the court, and it can affect the final orders being made in relation to children. The second thing is that, without party representation, parents are able to cross-examine each other in relation to parenting disputes and children.
In some cases this leads to victims of severe family violence being questioned by the perpetrator of that violence. I do not think anyone in this chamber would support situations like that.
We have also had incidents of family violence and child abuse undermining the interests of the children. Having a domestic violence victim questioned by the perpetrator of that violence is simply unacceptable as it not only opens the door to intimidation but also severely diminishes the court’s ability to extract the real evidence.
Laypersons with no representation also take up more time in the courts because they are unfamiliar with the workings of the court. I believe the slow progress of matters involving self-represented parties puts an extra financial burden on the court and state resources, including the costs of judges, bench clerks, witnesses and police.
The action I seek this afternoon is for the Attorney-General to listen to what the entire criminal justice system is saying on this issue and immediately reinstate the funding that has been cut from the Victoria Legal Aid service. If he is not able to do that immediately, then I certainly ask him to take action in relation to restoring that funding in the forthcoming May 2014 state budget.