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UN Human Rights Council – 23rd Session

Clustered Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers

Statement by Australia, 28 May 2013


Australia thanks the panellists for their reports.

We note the Independent Expert’s detailed exploration of existing international efforts to address the debt crisis of low-income countries, and the conclusion that more needs to be done to address the underlying causes of unsustainable debt. We will study the report and its recommendations carefully.

Australia also thanks the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers for her report on the provision of legal aid, which we agree is an essential element of a fair and efficient justice system.

Australia is committed to facilitating access to legal aid for those who cannot otherwise afford legal advice and representation, particularly for vulnerable persons who require access to our justice system for the enjoyment or defence of their rights. Our approach is focused on the access to justice principles of accessibility, appropriateness, equity, efficiency and effectiveness.

We agree with the Special Rapporteur’s broad definition of legal aid. Consistent with this interpretation, Australia’s system provides advice, information, education and assistance, and early intervention and prevention services. The provision of legal aid extends to non-criminal matters, particularly family law matters involving domestic violence or welfare of children, as well as the enforcement of personal rights and interests in matters involving significant personal detriment or for test cases that have a

In addition to taking action at the national level, Australia also works directly with other countries in our region to support access to justice and the provision of legal aid, as well as supporting the World Bank’s Justice for the Poor Program. We look forward to continuing this work.

We are pleased to note that our legal aid system incorporates many of the key elements recommended by the Special Rapporteur, including independent, coordinated and accountable providers. There is always more that can be done to improve the effectiveness of the system, and the Australian Government has therefore commissioned a review of the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services. In this context, we would be particularly interested in good examples from other jurisdictions of intra-state coordination and cooperation in the provision of legal aid and associated services.