Abolishing free legal advice to asylum seekers — who really pays?

Parliament house flag post

Abolishing free legal advice to asylum seekers — who really pays?

Posted 27/11/2013 by Elibritt Karlsen

One week before the 2013 federal election, the Coalition announced that, if elected, it would no longer provide funding for free legal advice to asylum seekers who have arrived without a valid visa. The primary concern for the Coalition was clearly the increasing cost of providing this service. However, one month prior to the Coalition’s announcement, the Government had entered into a regional resettlement arrangement with Papua New Guinea which meant all future boat arrivals would be processed abroad with no access to the Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme (IAAAS). Nonetheless, there are estimated to be in excess of 30,000 asylum seekers in Australia that will be affected by this proposed change.

Government funding to assist asylum seekers with the protection visa application process became formalised in the early 1990s when the Migration Act 1958 was radically overhauled to introduce a highly codified and regulatory framework to the visa decision making process. Consequently, the Government began providing free legal assistance to enable asylum seekers in hardship with strong claims for asylum to present their claims more effectively.

By the mid the 1990s the Application Assistance Scheme (AAS) was costing the government around $1.6 million a year and a parallel scheme had emerged—the Immigration Advisory Services Scheme (IASS), which provided annual grant funds of $0.3 million to five community agencies to provide free immigration advice to the most disadvantaged applicants in the community.

In 1996 the Department conducted a review into the IASS. It found that the scheme reduced the proportion of poorly prepared and inappropriate applications being submitted. The review also recommended the two schemes be incorporated to provide administrative efficiencies. Thus in July 1997, the IAAAS was created by the Howard Government with an annual budget of close to $2 million. Other than fluctuations in funding to meet increased demand (as shown in the table below), the IAAAS eligibility criteria has changed very little since its inception nearly 20 years ago.

The new scheme drew a distinction between application assistance and immigration advice. Application assistance involved assistance to prepare, lodge and present applications for visas and to make applications for merits review. Application assistance was available to all protection visa applicants in detention, and asylum seekers residing in the community with cases of merit who were experiencing financial hardship or were suffering torture and trauma.

Immigration advice included advice to people wanting to prepare and lodge their own visa applications, advice about visa conditions and sponsorship, and advice about departmental procedures. It also included assistance with the preparation of supporting documentation.

According to the Coalition’s pre-election policy document, asylum seekers who have arrived in Australia without a visa (or who do so in the future) will instead be provided with written instructions in multiple languages that will explain the application and assessment process. Interpreters will be provided and Departmental staff will be available to answer questions about the process. Alternatively they can independently pay for their own legal advice.

A number of community legal centres have been critical of the Coalition’s policy announcement. They have emphasised that asylum seekers are particularly vulnerable because they are likely to face considerable challenges in presenting comprehensive and cohesive claims without assistance. They claim that the involvement of lawyers significantly improves the quality and efficiency of the decision making process and that the change may end up costing the Government more in the long term as there will be longer delays in the decision making process and more appeals to the courts.

To this end, it is significant to note that the Coalition has also announced that they would consider removing appeals to the Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT) and implementing a non-statutory assessment and review process, though this is yet to occur. Nonetheless, the RRT Legal Advice Scheme has been discontinued. This was a Commonwealth Government funded scheme which provided legal advice to unrepresented asylum seekers in NSW who were seeking judicial review of an RRT decision. According to the President of the NSW Bar Association, the decision to abolish the scheme will result in a shifting of costs to an already under-resourced judiciary because it will significantly increase the number of self-represented litigants, which will result in the Federal Circuit Court facing more appeals and increased delays.

Financial YearCost ($million)
1997—19981.9
1998—19991.9
1999—20001.9
2000—200110.8
2001—20026.6
2002—20031.3
2003—20041.5
2004—2005N/A
2005—20062.2
2006—20072.2
2007—20082.2
2008—20093.3
2009—201011.8
2010—201120.9
2011—201222.6
2012—201328.4


Thank you for your comment. If it does not require moderation, it will appear shortly.

Add your comment

[Click to expand]




Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print

FlagPost

Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament


Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice

Archive

Syndication

Tagcloud

Refugees asylum immigration Australian foreign policy Parliament climate change elections women social security Australian Bureau of Statistics Employment indigenous Australians Sport illicit drugs gambling people trafficking taxation Medicare welfare reform Australian Defence Force higher education welfare policy United Nations health financing Asia Middle East criminal law disability Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency World Anti-Doping Agency United States federal budget school education forced labour aid statistics Australian Electoral Commission WADA income management Industrial Relations emissions trading dental health Australia in the Asian Century steroids detention 43rd Parliament Private health insurance OECD ASADA labour force transport Law Enforcement Australian Federal Police people smuggling poker machines National Disability Insurance Scheme Australian Crime Commission slavery Papua New Guinea Australian Public Service constitution International Women's Day corruption Afghanistan Fair Work Act child protection Aviation debt federal election 2013 parliamentary procedure ALP New Zealand Newstart Parenting Payment Census politics High Court skilled migration election results voting mental health Federal Court terrorist groups Higher Education Loan Program HECS governance youth paid parental leave environment foreign debt gross debt net debt defence capability customs Senate doping health crime health risks multiculturalism aged care Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling sex slavery sea farers Special Rapporteur Electoral reform political parties banking firearms public policy Population violence against women domestic violence China ADRV terrorism science research and development social media pensions welfare ASIO intelligence community Australian Security Intelligence Organisation accountability public service reform Carbon Pricing Mechanism carbon tax mining military history employer employee fishing by-election European Union same sex relationships international relations coal seam gas family assistance planning Senators and Members United Nations Security Council Australian economy food vocational education and training Drugs health reform Indonesia children codes of conduct terrorist financing health system money laundering early childhood education Canada Financial sector UK Parliament national security fuel disability employment Tasmania integrity transparency Australian Secret Intelligence Service sexual abuse federal state relations World Trade Organization Australia housing affordability bulk billing water renewable energy children's health health policy Governor-General US economy export liquefied natural gas foreign bribery question time speaker superannuation expertise climate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change leadership Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry food labelling Pacific Islands reserved seats new psychoactive substances synthetic drugs UNODC carbon markets Indigenous constitutional recognition of local government local government consumer laws PISA royal commission US politics language education baby bonus Leaders of the Opposition Parliamentary remuneration Australia Greens federal election 2010 servitude Trafficking Protocol energy forced marriage rural and regional Northern Territory Emergency Response ministries Hung Parliament social citizenship human rights emissions reduction fund; climate change child care funding refugees immigration asylum procurement Indigenous health e-voting internet voting nsw state elections 44th Parliament 2015 ABS Age Pension Death penalty capital punishment execution Bali nine Bali bombings Trade EU China soft power education Fiji India Disability Support Pension Antarctica Diplomacy by-elections state and territories workers Bills anti-corruption fraud bribery corporate ownership whistleblower G20 economic reform innovation standards NATO Members of Parliament Scottish referendum Middle East; national security; terrorism social services Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013 online grooming sexual assault of minors ACT Assembly public health smoking plain packaging tobacco cigarettes Asia; Japan; international relations Work Health and Safety Migration; asylum seekers; regional processing China; United States; international relations fiscal policy Racial Discrimination Act; social policy; human rights; indigenous Australians Foreign policy Southeast Asia Israel Palestine regional unemployment asylum refugees immigration political finance donations foreign aid Economics efficiency productivity human rights; Racial Discrimination Act employment law bullying asylum seekers Animal law; food copyright Australian Law Reform Commission industry peace keeping contracts workplace policies trade unions same-sex marriage disorderly conduct retirement Parliament House standing orders public housing prime ministers election timetable sitting days First speech defence budget submarines Somalia United Kingdom GDP forestry world heritage political engagement leave loading Trade; tariffs; safeguards; Anti-dumping public interest disclosure whistleblowing Productivity Commission regulation limitation period universities Ireland cancer gene patents genetic testing suspension of standing and sessional orders animal health live exports welfare systems infant mortality middle class welfare honorary citizen railways disciplinary tribunals standard of proof World Health Organisation arts international students skilled graduate visas temporary employment visas apologies roads Italy national heritage NHMRC nutrition anti-dumping Constitutional reform referendum Rent Assistance competition policy pharmaceutical benefits scheme obesity evidence law sacrament of confession US presidential election international days DFAT UN General Assembly deregulation Regulation Impact Statements administrative law small business Breaker Morant homelessness regional engagement social determinants of health abortion Youth Allowance Members suspension citizen engagement policymaking workplace health and safety Trafficking in Persons Report marine reserves hearing TAFE Victoria astronomy resources sector YMCA youth parliament alcohol Korea rebate Australian Greens presidential nomination Racial Discrimination Act entitlements political parties preselection solar hot water Financial Action Taskforce Horn of Africa peacekeeping piracy Great Barrier Reef Stronger futures political financing political education social inclusion Social Inclusion Board maritime early childhood National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care Murray-Darling Basin Iran sanctions Norway hospitals republic President Barack Obama Presidential visits ANZUS qantas counselling

Show all
Show less
Back to top