Legislative Council: Tuesday, June 27, 2023


Supreme Court (Distribution of Business) Amendment Bill

Second Reading

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 18 May 2023.)

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (16:07): Be still my heart—the content of the matter of this bill before us. No, I am not actually mocking our esteemed learned colleagues of the law. This is a pretty straightforward piece of legislation, from what I understand, which allows for the distribution of business between divisions of the court through agreement between the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the President of the Court of Appeal.

Clause 3 of the bill amends section 47(1), resulting in the decisions relating to distribution of business to be the responsibility of the Chief Justice in circumstances of complexity of a specified proceeding and the limited availability of judges for the general division, after consulting with the President. Clause 3 of the bill would also allow the movement of judges from one division to another for the purposes of specific procedures such as complex matters, not just for a set time period.

Clearly, it is an important matter, which is to enable the courts to manage their own business in a more efficient manner. I think we all appreciate that justice delayed is justice denied. All efficiencies and improvements to the management of flow through the courts is something to be supported and therefore we will be supporting this bill.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (16:09): As has been noted by the Hon. Michelle Lensink, this bill aims to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of our courts. I understand the current situation is that the Chief Justice possesses the authority to distribute court business by assigning work to members outside the Supreme Court for a limited period of 12 months. The Chief Justice has identified that, to have greater flexibility within the law, it would be preferable to allow for assignments to be made for a particular setting.

The primary objective of this bill is to improve the flow of cases through our courts. By extending the assignment duration, we can provide the Chief Justice with the necessary tools to manage the workload effectively, ensuring cases are heard and decided in a timely manner. I do hope that we see an improvement in the speed at which matters move through our court system because there have been unacceptable delays, and that is not, of course, the fault of the judiciary, it is the fault of governments—both Labor and Liberal—that have not provided appropriate resources to our court system.

We know that access to justice that is delayed is access to justice that is denied. It is really important that we resource our court system appropriately, so that it can expedite matters through the court and ensure that justice is served. In recognising the importance of swift justice, we recognise the impact that it has on all of the individuals involved, not just the victim and their families but also defendants, alleged perpetrators, who have a presumption of innocence as well or who may represent a serious threat to the community should they not be appropriately dealt with through our justice system.

It is important to note that this bill does not compromise the integrity of our judiciary in any way. The bill includes a crucial safeguard that requires the Chief Justice and the President of the Court of Appeal to mutually agree on any assignment. This preserves the checks and balances required for a robust system.

While the Greens are supportive of the bill, I understand that there may be some amendments, and we reserve our right in respect of those amendments and will certainly consider those. We support the bill. We acknowledge the demands of our legal system and believe that we need to adapt the administrative framework accordingly. That said, we will consider any amendments that come before us in the days ahead.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I. Pnevmatikos.