Library budget cuts another blow to the legal profession

Shadow Attorney-General Lara Giddings is deeply concerned by the Liberal Government’s cuts to law library services.

 

“This is yet another cut the Liberals failed to mention before the election,” Ms Giddings said.

 

“It is another example of the services the Government is cutting to pay for $400 million worth of irresponsible and unaffordable election promises.

 

“The law libraries across the state play an important support role to all in the legal profession.

 

“The arrogance of the Liberal Government means it has failed to consult with the Law Society, a joint funding partner in delivering the library services, before making the decision to withdraw state funding.

 

“At a time when Legal Aid is chronically underfunded, sacking the law library librarians is another blow to the legal community.

 

“The legal system and regional Tasmania is being severely let down by the Liberal Government which continues to remove vital services.

 

“The Liberals say the work could be absorbed by either the University of Tasmania or the State Library, but it’s my understanding that neither has been consulted and the State Library has already said no.

 

“If Vanessa Goodwin is intent on making savings, integration of the integrated Law Library and Judges Library at the Supreme Court should be seen as the maximum change.”

Uniting Church joins fight to retain sentencing options

Shadow Attorney-General Lara Giddings was today presented with a petition opposing the abolition of suspended sentences from around 200 members of the Uniting Church.

 

Ms Giddings said she met with the Uniting Church’s Dr Mark Zirnsak to discuss the retention of suspended sentences and the fears of petitioners should this option be removed as a sentencing tool.

 

“Both the Labor Party and Uniting Church are in agreement over the Liberal Government’s irresponsible plan to abolish suspended sentences,” Ms Giddings said.

“This is a decision based on politics, not on evidence.

“Opposition across the community against abolishing suspended sentences continues to grow in Tasmania.”

A recent study (Dec 2013) by Catholic Social Services in Victoria concluded that the safety of the Victorian Community has not been improved by the abolition of suspended sentences, but to the contrary, may have been compromised.

 

The report also points to evidence which shows that people who receive a wholly suspended sentence are less likely to reoffend than people who receive a fine and also less likely to reoffend than people who received a term of immediate imprisonment.

 

“The Liberal Government needs to listen to groups like the Uniting Church and Catholic Social Services Victoria and rethink its policy position,” Ms Giddings said.

“Vanessa Goodwin knows her position is not backed by expert opinion but she continues to stubbornly advocate for it.”

Front line budget cuts causing havoc in legal system

Shadow Attorney-General Lara Giddings said today Legal Aid was in crisis in Tasmania with cuts to the Legal Aid Commission’s frontline services causing havoc in the State’s judicial system.

 

“The Commission has already been forced to cut its staff by 10 per cent which is leaving people, some facing jail, with no legal representation,” Ms Giddings said.

 

“People seeking legal assistance are increasingly being turned away, with Legal Aid accepting fewer cases.

 

“This in turn is impacting on the courts as the judiciary adjourn more cases in an attempt to give people more time to find legal representation. This slowing of the judicial process is clogging up our courts and increasing their costs.

 

“The Government is doing nothing to address this deepening crisis in our legal system.

 

“Rather than address the problems in Legal Aid, the Liberals are threatening further cuts to Legal Aid funding. Meanwhile, they continue to go around spending on extravagant election promises they knew they couldn’t afford.”

 

Ms Giddings said Attorney General Vanessa Goodwin had ignored the pleas of Tasmania’s legal profession and has failed to address its concerns.

 

“The legal profession is very worried about the impact funding cuts to legal aid are having on the system.

 

“Private lawyers who have traditionally taken on Legal Aid work are now refusing to take on the risk of clients whose support can be withdrawn at any moment.

 

“The Government should be looking at ways to improve the Legal Aid system, not tearing it further apart.”

Liberals’ lukewarm response to medical cannabis trial

Shadow Attorney-General Lara Giddings today urged the Tasmanian Government to pursue any opportunities to take part in a clinical trial of medical cannabis.

 

“The Liberals response so far has been lukewarm at best while other States have taken the lead in recognising the benefits of medical cannabis and pushing for the trial to occur in their backyard,” Ms Giddings said.

 

“Moves by New South Wales and Victoria for a clinical trial next year is a huge step forward and great news for all those who have fought so hard in Tasmania and across Australia to be able to use medical cannabis legally.

 

“As we have seen from Tasmanians like Nicole Cowles, Natalie Daley and Lyn Cleaver who have bravely told their stories, it is a medication that has turned patients’ lives around.

 

“While other States and Territories yesterday were lauding a clinical trial, Health Minister Michael Ferguson merely said he was happy to share information and Premier Will Hodgman said nothing.

 

“Tasmania needs stronger leadership than that from the Premier and his Health Minister if we are to gain any of the medical and potential economic benefits of the trial.

 

“It is vital for Mr Ferguson to ensure the trial includes Tasmanian farmers who can safely grow cannabis and that its use covers a wide range of medical conditions including children with epilepsy.

 

“Now is the time for Michael Ferguson to forget about his own political prejudices and for the Liberal Government to stop paying lip service to the many Tasmanians crying out for leadership on this issue.”

Liberals planning reforms nothing more than a policy slogan

Shadow Planning Minister Lara Giddings said today the Liberal’s planning policy was simply a tricky re-badging of reforms already well advanced under the previous government.

 

“If they haven’t already, Tasmanians will eventually see through the Liberal Government’s attempt to dress up their policy slogan as real reform.

 

“We already have 100 per cent consistency across the state with the template, that is, the zones and basic structure and 90 per cent consistency at the regional level with the detail that sits within the template.

 

“Mr Gutwein today admitted that there will never be 100 per cent consistency state-wide as planning provisions will apply differently in areas like Battery Point and Penguin in order to protect their heritage or other unique attributes.

 

“Mr Gutwein is simply playing around the edges of the planning scheme, re-badging the work already done.

 

“The fact is the vast majority of planning applications are for residential developments which already have a single template through PD4.”

 

“Tasmanian councils have worked extremely hard to achieve new planning schemes consistent with a State-wide planning template delivered under the previous government, yet get no thanks or recognition from Mr Gutwein.”

 

Ms Giddings said the critical issue in planning now was the draconian plans by the Government to take away peoples’ appeal rights.

 

“This is one of the smoking guns of the Liberals plan because people will be forced to forfeit their rights because of the costs,” Ms Giddings said.

Will Hodgman out of step with Prime Minister on medicinal cannabis

Premier Will Hodgman is even out of step with Prime Minister Tony Abbott on the use of medical cannabis.

 

“Mr Abbott has gone as far as to say if a drug is proven to be safe overseas and is needed here it should be available without the need to be tested again in Australia,” Shadow Attorney General Lara Giddings said.

 

“Will Hodgman is swimming against the tide of public and political opinion in relation to medicinal cannabis.

 

“If he needs any further convincing he need only talk to Tony Abbott.

 

“In Mr Abbott’s own words on the use of medicinal cannabis: ‘If a drug is needed for a valid medicinal purpose and is being administered safely there should be no question about it legality’.

 

“Mr Hodgman shouldn’t wait until 2015 when the Legislative Council Reports on their inquiry into the issue, to take further action on this issue.

 

“The Premier could ask his Health Minister to start clinical trials now in Tasmania or better still advocate for the TGA to accept clinical trial evidence from overseas and legalise medical cannabis sooner rather than later.

 

“In a paper in the Medical Journal of Australia (December 2013), Dr Alex Wodak cited 82 favourable control trials and nine unfavourable control trials overseas which would help inform the TGA’s decision to legalise MC.

 

“The longer the Tasmanian Liberals stall on the use of medicinal cannabis the more out of touch they are looking,” Ms Giddings said.

 

Text of Letter from Tony Abbott to Alan Jones:

 

“Thanks Alan.  Let me look into this.  I have no problem with the medical use of cannabis just as I have no problem with the medical use of opiates.  I was under the impression that personal use of cannabis was no longer an offence in New South Wales, not that I would ever support the recreational use of these sorts of drugs.  If a drug is needed for a valid medicinal purpose, though, and is being administered safely, there should be no question of its legality.  And if a drug that’s proven to be safe abroad is needed here, it should be available.  I agree that the regulation of medicines is a thicket of complexity, bureaucracy and corporate and institutional self-interest.  My basic contention is that something that’s been found to be safe in a reliable jurisdiction shouldn’t need to be tested here again.  And clinical trials that have been done elsewhere shouldn’t have to be repeated here.  I doubt the Haslams need a meeting, they need their problem addressed, so please let me see what’s possible.  Cheers, Tony”

 

Gutwein short on details over planning appointment

The Treasurer has confirmed the chair of the Planning Reform Process was appointed with no interviews, no process and no recommendations.

 

Labor Shadow Planning Minister, Lara Giddings, said the appointment of the $200,000 a year position was murky at best.

 

“Mr Gutwein was asked how many people were interviewed for the position, he failed to answer,” Ms Giddings said.

 

“Mr Gutwein was asked whether his Department made any recommendations on candidates, he failed to answer.

 

“Mr Gutwein was asked why the highly paid position wasn’t advertised, he failed to answer.

 

“In fact he made the appointment with no proper process at all.

 

“How can Tasmanians have any faith in planning reforms when the government has allowed the position of chair to become politically compromised through a lack of transparency and due process?”

Your home is no longer your castle

The consequences of the Liberals’ callous changes to planning appeals have been revealed during Budget Estimates.

 

Shadow Planning Minister Lara Giddings says the Government’s approach favours big business and disadvantages local residents.

 

“The Liberals are about to create a very uneven playing field,” Ms Giddings said.

 

“Mums and dads who wish to lodge a planning appeal against a project over their back fence will be automatically hit with costs if they’re unsuccessful.

 

“The Liberals need to understand that appellants trying to protect their amenity and valuation of their homes are not criminals.

 

“In reality, people will be too scared to stand up for their rights.

 

“Corporations will be able to dangle the prospect of huge court costs in front of potential appellants due to their ability to take on the risk of paying for expensive expert advice.

 

“The law already provides deterrents for vexatious appeals.

 

“Just like the anti-protest legislation, the Liberals are going way too far.

 

“Peter Gutwein must immediately rethink these unfair changes before everyday Tasmanians lose their right to appeal.

Circuit courts under threat

Circuit courts in regional areas including King Island and Flinders Island could face the axe under the Liberal Government’s budget cuts.

 

Attorney-General Vanessa Goodwin repeatedly failed to rule out reducing sessions or even axing regional court sittings as a result of cuts to the Justice budget.

 

“Ms Goodwin was given repeated opportunities to commit to these critical circuit court sittings but she refused to rule anything in or out,” Shadow Attorney-General Lara Giddings said.

 

“There are also fears that courts in Devonport or Burnie may have to close as a result of the hidden cuts in the Liberal Government’s first budget.

 

“Circuit court sittings in Queenstown, Smithton, Currie, Whitemark, Scottsdale, St Helens and Huonville play an important part in our justice system, particularly for people who are unable to travel.

 

“The Attorney General must immediately commit to quarantining these frontline services from cuts.”

Policy flip on medicinal cannabis welcomed

Shadow Attorney-General Lara Giddings has welcomed Health Minister Michael Ferguson’s backflip on the issue of medicinal cannabis.

 

“It’s taken too long for the Minister to come to this position but Labor warmly welcomes the major policy shift,” Ms Giddings said.

 

“Now we wait to see evidence that the Government is prepared to match its words with leadership and tangible actions.

 

“Companies can conduct clinical trials in Tasmania with state ministerial approval. However, legalising medical cannabis requires national Therapeutic Goods Administration approval.

 

“For real change to occur the Premier must push for national reform by putting this issue on the COAG agenda.

 

“This issue is far too important for the Liberal Government to adopt a passive approach.

 

“Tasmanians who have been demanding common sense on medicinal cannabis should be proud of the pressure they’ve applied to government.

 

“People like Nicole Cowles and Natalie Daley shouldn’t underestimate the influence they’ve had when it comes to this issue.

 

“By sharing their stories, momentum for change has continued to grow.”