Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2013 Week 8 Hansard (5 June) . . Page.. 2313..
Supreme Court (Appointment of Resident Judges) Amendment Bill 2013
Debate resumed from 8 May 2013, on motion by Mr Seselja:
That this bill be agreed to in principle.
MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations and Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development) (4.19): The government will not be supporting Mr Seselja's bill today. The government is on the public record as to why it does not support, at this time, the appointment of a fifth resident judge for the ACT Supreme Court. On 20 March this year, I stood in the Assembly and took members through the reasons why a fifth judge is not needed. As I have said previously, I assure the Assembly that the government takes the issue of delays in the Supreme Court very seriously and continues to work with the court on the issue of delay.
However, this debate about the need for a fifth resident judge comes down to two pivotal questions. The first is: is the Supreme Court under resourced? Second, would the appointment of a fifth judge sufficiently reduce the delays in the court to justify such expenditure?
I have previously explained why the government is not prepared to appoint a fifth resident judge at this time. Firstly, it is a long-term expense to the territory. The work pressure does not justify it, and yet calls for a fifth judge have continued. At present our Supreme Court has a permanent contingent of four resident judges, the Master and additional judges, Federal Court judges who permanently supplement the work of the court on a part-time basis. In addition, we have temporary acting judges who are appointed when needed such as in the lead-up to the commencement of the new docket system in 2012.
A good way of looking at whether we need a fifth judge is to compare work pressure on the court and the superior courts of other jurisdictions. Lodgements per judicial officer is the best available way of determining the actual workload of the court as compared to the workload of courts in other jurisdictions. The 2013 report on government services, ROGS, provides a basis for the comparison. ROGS allows us to aggregate Supreme Court and District Court jurisdictions and their judicial officer complement where jurisdictions have two superior courts. If Mr Seselja is correct, if we really do need another judge, when we compare the ACT to other jurisdictions we would expect to see ACT judges dealing with far more matters than their state counterparts.
However, when the comparison is done, a very different picture emerges. In relation to all lodgements, civil and criminal, the ACT Supreme Court's workload per judicial officer is below, that is right, the national average. In relation to criminal lodgements, the Supreme Court's workload per judicial officer is also below the national average. In relation to civil lodgements, the Supreme Court's workload per judicial officer is the second-lowest in the country. The only jurisdiction with a lower workload is the