Community groups wanting to protect the environment may be unable to access legal advice after the Federal Government refused to restore funding to EDOs around Australia.
Federal Attorney General, Senator George Brandis, yesterday announced the restoration of $25.5 million in funding to Legal Aid Commissions, Community Legal Centres and Aboriginal Legal Services but expressly excluded EDOs from his decision.
The Attorney General’s original decision to cut funding to community legal centres, including the four-year $10 million to EDOs, was announced the week before Christmas 2013. While most cuts announced were deferred until 1 July 2015, cuts to EDOs took effect immediately.
“We are very happy that the Attorney General has decided to restore funding to Community Legal Centres but we are absolutely stunned that he has made an exception of funding EDOs of Australia,” said EDOs of Australia spokesperson Jess Feehely.
“There is no basis to distinguish between EDOs and other community legal services delivering access to justice. In fact, the Attorney-General’s decision contradicts recent recommendations of the Productivity Commission to restore EDO funding, in light of our critical role in protecting public health and matters of national environmental significance.”
The funding cuts have greatly reduced environmental legal services to communities across Australia, with offices in the Northern Territory, ACT, South Australia, Tasmania and North Queensland particularly affected.
“This comes at a time when a number of contentious gas, mining and environmentally damaging projects are in the pipeline,” said Ms Feehely. “These projects are in highly sensitive areas such as the Great Barrier Reef, Arnhem Land and on prime farmland such as the Liverpool plains in NSW,” said Ms Feehely
“Without the expert legal services provided by EDOs, many Australians could not afford to get advice about their rights or challenge major development projects which threaten the environment, public health, endangered species, productive farmland, clean air and water supplies, Indigenous traditional lands and other cultural heritage.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Jess Feehely EDO Tasmania (03) 6223 2770.