The shadow attorney-general, Peter Costello, called yesterday for the Minister for Justice, Senator Michael Tate, to release documents on the granting of legal aid to those charged over the Iranian Embassy incident earlier this year.
“Somehow $1 million of aid has materialised for these applicants, some of whom are not Australian citizens,” Mr Costello said.
Granting aid to some meant others missed out. They would be concerned about the policy priorities in this case.
Mr Costello queried how they got lawyer-of-choice aid.
The ACT Legal Office has said that unless it got Federal money aid would have been refused. With its funding guarantee the Commonwealth supported in the “special circumstances of this case’, representation of choice for the defendants,”” the office said.
Senator Tate has said no direction had come from him that aid should be given. He had said at the time that eligibility was for the ACT office.
He said this week, “I was aware that the accused wanted lawyers of their own choice if they were otherwise eligible for legal aid. Given the bonds of trust between the accused and their lawyers in the successful bail application weight should be attached to this request.
“Insofar as this would impose greater costs on the ACT commission, I arranged that the Commonwealth would give assistance to the Commission so it was not left in financial distress or unable to meet the costs from its own coffers.”
Mr Costello said, “”This is an extraordinary twist in an extraordinary bugle. The huge resources of the Commonwealth couldn’t be harnessed to protect the Iranian Embassy. Then the huge resources of the Commonwealth are harnessed into providing $1 million of legal aid to those charged but no satisfactory explanation can be given as to how.”
Mr Costello said he had filed a freedom of information request for the documents.