How Larissa Waters voted compared to someone who believes that the federal government should maintain or increase funding for the legal assistance sector (Legal Aid, community legal centres, etc.)

Division Larissa Waters Supporters vote Division outcome

29th Mar 2017, 3:54 PM – Senate Motions - Legal Services - Commit funding

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The majority supported a motion introduced by Nick Xenophon Team Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore, which means it was successful. The motion related to funding for legal assistance services, especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander services.

Motions like these don't have legal force but represent the will of the Senate. This means that they can't force the Government to do anything but can still be influential.

Motion text

That the Senate—

(a) notes, with respect to legal assistance services:

(i) legal aid commissions, community legal centres, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services and Family Violence Prevention Legal Services ("legal assistance services") are severely underfunded,

(ii) the Government plans to cut a further $51 million from community legal centres and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services from 1 July 2017, resulting in closures and affecting thousands of marginalised and disenfranchised Australians,

(iii) in 1997, the Government spent $11.22 per capita each year on legal aid compared to $7.84 per capita today – its share of funding (with the states and territories) has fallen from 55 per cent in 1997 to 35 per cent, and

(iv) the Productivity Commission has recommended that an additional $200 million is needed for civil legal aid alone;

(b) recognises that this legal assistance underfunding means:

(i) just 8 per cent of Australians qualify for legal aid under restrictive means tests, while 14 per cent of Australians are living beneath the poverty line,

(ii) around 10,000 Australians each year are forced to represent themselves in court,

(iii) community legal centres are forced to turn away over 160,000 people a year, and

(iv) the Productivity Commission found that investing in legal assistance services generates significant downstream savings;

(c) acknowledges, with respect to the underfunding of the federal courts:

(i) the neglect of the Federal and Family Courts means that families facing the most serious family law issues can wait up to three years before a final trial,

(ii) that these unacceptably long delays in hearings and determinations are denying justice and fairness to Australians seeking protection and finality in their legal affairs, with detrimental impacts on vulnerable children, families, business, and entire communities, and

(iii) a 2014 KPMG report given to the Government, but not released, found the Federal, Family and Federal Circuit Courts were ontrack for a combined budget shortfall of $75 million by 2017-18 which will result in further cuts to their services; and

(d) calls on the Government to:

(i) immediately reverse the imminent cuts to community legal centres and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services,

(ii) release the 2014 KPMG Report on the Federal Courts given to the Attorney-General,

(iii) commit to adequate and sustainable longer-term funding contributions to the legal assistance sector, and

(iv) review resourcing for the federal courts and identify what resources are required to address unacceptable delays in hearing and determinations.

absent Yes (strong) Passed by a small majority

26th Mar 2015, 1:18 PM – Senate Motions - Legal Aid- Increase funding

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The majority voted against a motion moved by Greens Senator Penny Wright.

Motion text

That the Senate—

(a) notes the effects of Commonwealth funding uncertainty on the legal assistance sector, including the possible closure of community legal centres, staff loss, a reduction in services to clients and declining staff morale;

(b) acknowledges that, unless this uncertainty is addressed and funding restored, critical services directed at family violence, child protection, disability and mental health and services to regional, remote and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities may be irrevocably compromised;

(c) accepts the findings of the Productivity Commission's 2014 report on access to justice, which recommended an additional $200 million in Commonwealth, state and territory funding be provided for civil legal assistance services to address urgent need; and

(d) calls on the Federal Government to immediately address the funding uncertainty and include increased funding for the legal assistance sector in the 2015-16 Federal Budget.

Yes Yes (strong) Not passed by a modest majority

How "voted moderately for" is worked out

The MP's votes count towards a weighted average where the most important votes get 50 points, less important votes get 10 points, and less important votes for which the MP was absent get 2 points. In important votes the MP gets awarded the full 50 points for voting the same as the policy, 0 points for voting against the policy, and 25 points for not voting. In less important votes, the MP gets 10 points for voting with the policy, 0 points for voting against, and 1 (out of 2) if absent.

Then, the number gets converted to a simple english language phrase based on the range of values it's within.

No of votes Points Out of
Most important votes (50 points)      
MP voted with policy 1 50 50
MP voted against policy 0 0 0
MP absent 1 25 50
Less important votes (10 points)      
MP voted with policy 0 0 0
MP voted against policy 0 0 0
Less important absentees (2 points)      
MP absent* 0 0 0
Total: 75 100

*Pressure of other work means MPs or Senators are not always available to vote – it does not always indicate they have abstained. Therefore, being absent on a less important vote makes a disproportionatly small difference.

Agreement score = MP's points / total points = 75 / 100 = 75%.

And then