State Attorney-General Elise Archer won't be drawn on the question of whether or not she agrees with prominent legal practitioners' claims that there's a "crisis" in Tasmania's legal assistance sector.
Instead she's noted the state's record funding for the sector and acknowledged the "important work" it does.
Ms Archer addressed the state government's top-up funding for the sector - which includes the Legal Aid Commission, Community Legal Centres and other organisations which provide legal assistance to vulnerable Tasmanians - in state budget estimates last week.
The state government has been forced to fill a federal funding shortfall for legal assistance services in Tasmania since 2015, when the National Partnership Agreement (NPA) was implemented.
Law Society of Tasmania president Evan Hughes said earlier this week that there was "a real crisis" in the state's legal assistance sector due to the shortfall and that urgent change was needed to remedy the damage.
In response to a written question from The Examiner on Thursday, Ms Archer chose not to take the opportunity to agree or disagree with Mr Hughes' claim.
"The Tasmanian government has in recent years provided the legal assistance sector with record funding so as to ensure there has been no reduction in their core funding," she said.
"In fact, due to our government's additional funding commitments, the Legal Aid Commission's revenue is higher than it has been for many years.
"However, the government recognises the important work done by the sector and their concerns about funding beyond the current National Partnership Agreement."
Ms Archer said the state would continue to work constructively with the federal government "to ensure the sector is equipped to provide assistance to the greatest number of Tasmanians, particularly those who are disadvantaged or in need".
The government recognises the important work done by the sector and their concerns about funding beyond the current National Partnership Agreement.Elise Archer, Tasmanian Attorney-General
The introduction of the NPA saw six of the eight states and territories receive a net increase in funding for their respective legal assistance services. The only jurisdictions to experience funding cuts as a result of the deal were South Australia and Tasmania.
It resulted in Tasmania suffering the biggest drop (-7.29 per cent) in funding of all states and territories over the 2014-15 and 2015-16 financial years.
In the 2019-20 financial year, the state will contribute $1.3 million to the local legal assistance sector.
On July 1, 2020, the NPA will expire and a new funding distribution model is set to be implemented. And lawyers in Tasmania are crossing their fingers that the state won't get the raw end of the deal once more.
State Labor justice spokeswoman Ella Haddad said there was "widespread concern in the legal community about state and federal cuts to legal aid funding".
"The Hodgman government has sat back and done nothing while our legal services struggle to keep pace," she said.
"Elise Archer must demand that the next National Partnership [Agreement] features substantially more funding for Tasmania, otherwise the community will pay the price."
From July 1, 2020, the federal government will increase national baseline legal assistance funding to $369.9 million per year over three years.
A spokesperson for acting federal Attorney-General Greg Hunt said that under the NPA, funding was distributed to the states and territories using "an evidence-based model" that accounts for "differences in the relative need for services between jurisdictions".
"Between 2015 and 2020, Australian government funding under the NPA for Tasmania is $37 million," the spokesperson said.
"Funding allocations beyond 2020 have not yet been determined."