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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2013 Week 6 Hansard (8 May) . . Page.. 1694..


Supreme Court (Appointment of Resident Judges) Amendment Bill 2013

Mr Seselja, pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MR SESELJA (Brindabella) (11.20): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Yesterday morning I received an email from a local businessman who has been dealing with the part-sale of his business for the last two years. Unfortunately, this sale has not gone smoothly and has entered the judicial system. The dispute first arose in December 2011, and the first court date was set for mid-December 2012. The hearing did not go ahead due to the judge being unavailable; nor did the hearing set for two weeks later, once again due to the judge not being available. Almost five months later, a new date has still not been set and his business still sits under a cloud of uncertainty. There is ongoing stress on him and his colleagues and mounting legal bills for all sides.

Stories like this are all too common and are the reason why I am introducing this bill in the Assembly today. The Supreme Court (Appointment of Resident Judges) Amendment Bill 2013 will make a simple but effective amendment to the Supreme Court Act 1933. The bill today will provide that the executive must, by commission, appoint as resident judges a chief justice of the court and at least four other judges of the court.

The Canberra Liberals had hoped that we would not have needed to have legislation to call for the appointment of an additional judge. It would have been hoped that the government would have listened to the community affected by long delays, key stakeholders on this issue like the Law Society, and victims of crime, who have all called for long-term and sustained action to ensure that residents in the ACT receive timely access to justice.

In March, I introduced a motion calling on the government to appoint a fifth judge. Unfortunately, the government, including the Greens, did not vote in favour of the motion, further condemning the many Canberrans negatively affected by the long delays in our court system to further uncertainty and instability. I hope that the government and the Greens will be open to discussion and negotiation on this bill. I look forward to discussing with my colleagues across the chamber how we can work together to ensure a fifth judge is appointed.

It would be timely to revisit the latest statistics regarding access to justice in the ACT. According to the latest report on government services we have 3.4 judges per 100,000 people. This is the lowest number of judges per capita in the country. It is relevant to compare similar jurisdictions, such as the Northern Territory, which has 11 judges per 100,000, and Tasmania, which has 4.1 judges per 100,000. Importantly, we are also well below the national average of 4.8 judges per 100,000 people.


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