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Eddie Obeid's need for legal aid


Eddie Obeid

Corrupt former NSW Labor minister Eddie Obeid has sought public funds to cover his legal fees. In July the Independent Commission Against Corruption found Obeid and his family had made $30 million by rigging the tender for a mining licence. But Obeid and his legal team have argued the seemingly unlikely case that he was eligible for legal assistance under guidelines that take into account the public interest and the 'prospect of hardship to the witness if assistance is declined'.

The wealthy are more likely to know and exercise their legal entitlements than the poor. They can afford expensive professional advice to help them find loopholes in the law. This often involves self-delusion and spurious argumentation in an attempt to have it accepted that they are 'doing it tough'. Obeid is worried his costly legal battles are swallowing his ill gotten gains and that consequently he will end up penniless. He has already put his $10 million Hunters Hill mansion on the market.

Meanwhile those who are genuinely disadvantaged are too often crushed by poor self esteem, or are simply ignorant of their entitlements, and often fail to claim the assistance that is rightfully theirs. That is the conclusion from the recent Legal Australia-Wide (LAW) Survey that shows high levels of disadvantage are associated with a lower likelihood of taking action and seeking professional advice in response to legal problems.

The survey's key findings indicate that people with a disability, and single parents, are twice as likely to experience legal problems. The unemployed and people living in disadvantaged housing also have heightened vulnerability. The survey also found the Indigenous people are more likely to experience multiple legal problems including government, health and rights related problems.

It found a lack of awareness of free legal services, and that this is associated with lower levels of taking action and consulting legal professionals. In particular, Indigenous people are less likely to take action and use legal professionals if they live in more remote areas. 

A society that cares for its citizens should ensure that publicly funded legal assistance is delivered to those who need it, and not to those who simply want it. It seems our system is geared towards people who are capable and practised in helping themselves, such as Eddie Obeid, and that it leaves out in the cold those who live a more passive existence, often involuntarily. These people are the ones who really struggle to make ends meet and to resolve the conflicts that life serves up to them. They need our help.

Michael MullinsMichael Mullins is editor of Eureka Street. 

Topic tags: MIchael Mullins.Eddie Obeid, ICAC, legal aid, corruption.welfare, Law Foundation



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Existing comments

If Eddie Obeid is granted Legal Aid it will tell us something is very, very wrong with contemporary Australia.

Edward F | 09 November 2013  

As far as I'm aware Mr Obeid's request for legal assistance has not been granted. In this circumstance your thesis seems to be that the rich have more money than the poor.

John Vernau | 09 November 2013  

I could not agree more in that those who struggle are the ones who need legal aid. I understood that there was a means testing before legal aid could be given anyway.

LynneZ | 11 November 2013  

Mr Obeid has a strategy, long practised of tossing unlikely scenarios into debate in order to distract. This must be another. And while we fall for the distraction and take our eyes off the game, he's doing something underhand.

Rosanna | 13 November 2013  

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