Cecil Chao

Holladay money

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 April, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 April, 2000, 12:00am


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She may no longer be the queen of the glitzy set as she was during her celebrated relationship with multi-millionaire Cecil Chao, but Terri Holladay has no need to worry about where to find her next meal.

She is still so sought after by the advertising industry that one company, by her account, was prepared to pay $1 million for her to pose on a mattress. Ms Holladay decided that would be too demeaning for a mother with a six-year-old son.

Perhaps it was. But a professional model who can command those sums for a single shoot can get plenty of other work and choose the type of campaigns she takes part in.

So it is more than a little surprising to discover that Ms Holladay, who turned up for her first day in court in a Mercedes, managed to convince the Legal Aid Department that reduced circumstances made her eligible to fight her case with public money.

That success may make her the envy of many in humbler circumstances who have failed to qualify for similar aid so they could sue bad employers or deserting fathers or to pursue other cases with an equally profound impact on their financial circumstances.

That is not to say people should be penalised for the sin of having once been rich. Or that legal aid is only for those below the poverty line. It is intended for those who have just legal cases but lack the means to take court action.

In the type of case Ms Holladay initiated, the applicant must not have financial resources of more than $169,700 and the Legal Aid Department must be convinced there is a good chance the action will succeed.

Whether she fulfilled those criteria is beside the point. The key question is whether it is acceptable for a legal aid recipient to turn down legitimate work which would more than cover the cost of their litigation.

It would be surprising if this privilege is enjoyed by all applicants. But common practice or otherwise, the rules should be reasonable. Those able to work to offset their legal bills cannot expect to be subsidised by the taxpayer.