Tribunal fee increases risk locking out the poor

The Victorian Government’s proposal to increase application fees and other charges for particular cases heard at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal may compromise the ability of ordinary Victorians to access the efficient and inexpensive justice the Tribunal seeks to provide. Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, Daniel Webb, said many Victorians rely on VCAT to resolve inherently personal disputes directly impacting on their lives and the increases to fees may prevent or discourage disadvantaged Victorians from pursuing claims.

“It’s important that ordinary Victorians are not shut out from our legal systems. The ability to seek justice should not depend on the size of your wallet,” Mr Webb said.

In its submission to the Department of Justice, the Human Rights Law Centre highlights that any fees that impede access to such a tribunal may also engage the fair hearing right under Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities as well as Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Mr Webb said that it was essential that fee structures be carefully designed to ensure they do not disproportionately and unjustifiably compromise access to justice.

“It is vital that any changes to VCAT fees are carefully tailored, on the basis of robust evidence, to minimise adverse impacts on the ability of disadvantaged people to access the legal system,” Mr Webb said.

The Government has acknowledged that the current proposals have been developed without such evidence.