The ABA Refutes Claims by Immigration Minister Regarding Pro Bono Legal Assistance For Asylum Seekers

The claims by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton that lawyers who provide pro bono legal assistance to asylum seekers are ‘un-Australian’ are unfortunate and incorrect, according to the Australian Bar Association (ABA).

In an interview on commercial radio on 28 August, Minister Dutton responded to a statement by 2GB radio host Alan Jones that the behaviour of lawyers representing asylum seekers was ‘un-Australian’ and said: “Well, of course it is, and it’s gone on for too long.”

ABA President Will Alstergen QC said that a fundamental tenet of democracy was the equal application of the rule of law to all people.

“There is nothing ‘un-Australian’ in ensuring that all people have equal access to justice in this country via independent legal representation,” Mr Alstergren said.

“Australian barristers have a proud tradition of appearing pro bono for people who cannot afford legal representation and have done so over many years on behalf of the legal profession.”

“These barristers do so voluntarily for the good not only of the community, but the independence of our legal system.”

Mr Alstegren said that without diligent respect for the separation of powers, democracy can and will be eroded and this would be to the detriment of all Australians.

“The Australian Bar Association urges the government and all political parties to respect and support the rule of law and the independence of the legal profession,” Mr Alstergren said.

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