Media Releases


February 23, 2016

A report released yesterday by the Human Rights Law Centre has detailed the Abbott-Turnbull Government's attacks on Australian civil society, which are slowly but surely undermining our democracy.

Since being elected in 2013 the Liberals have cut funding to community groups and legal services, attempted to gag advocates and cut off their access to the courts. Without appropriate resourcing, these groups are left unable to fight the Turnbull-Abbott Government cuts which are impacting the people they represent.

The 2014 Budget cut $6 million from community legal centres, along with $15 million from legal aid commissions and $43 million from advocacy services. People who cannot afford a private lawyer are increasingly being denied access to the legal representation to which they are entitled, and the centres cannot afford to campaign to protect the people they represent.

"Governments should be listening to alternative voices, not seeking to silence them," Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said.

"Advocacy is an essential part of the work of community legal centres, of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal centres, and a whole range of other community groups. Advocacy benefits our society, and has already played an important role in fighting the destructive agenda of the Abbott-Turnbull government.”

One particular ideological focus of the Abbott-Turnbull Government is their decision to defund the Environmental Defenders Office as a way to avoid being held to account on their environmental record.

They have also attempted to stop community groups, farmers and NGOs from challenging decisions in the courts.

“The proposed changes to the EPBC Act are a clear example of the Abbott-Turnbull Government attacking civil society to cover up its appalling environmental record,” said Shadow Minister for the Environment Mark Butler.

“Rather than admitting they made a mistake, the Abbott-Turnbull Government has gone on the attack against 'vigilante litigation' – an oxymoronic concept that seems to suggest that environmental groups are taking the law into their own hands by bringing a case to court.”

The Australian people are rightly disappointed by Mr Turnbull and his Government continuing Tony Abbott’s attacks on civil society. Mr Turnbull pretends to be a man of the people but is really doing his best to silence dissent.