Page 2823 - Week 08 - Tuesday, 5 August 2008

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Public Accounts—Standing Committee

Report 15

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (11.26): I present the following report:

Public Accounts—Standing Committee—Report 15—Review of Auditor-General’s Report No 4 of 2005: Courts Administration, dated 30 July 2008, together with a copy of the extracts of the relevant minutes of proceedings.

I move:

That the report be noted.

This report on the review of courts administration in 2005 has been a long time in preparation. It began under the chairmanship of Mr Mulcahy; indeed, a very large part of the evidence was gathered during that time. Also during that time, we made a visit to South Australia to look at the way that the courts operated there.

It is not the first time that the administration of the courts has been reviewed in the ACT. There are issues of concern. I feel fairly sure that there will be issues of concern while the courts are administered by the Department of Justice and Community Safety. The people of Australia, who have adopted the Westminster system of government, value very highly the separation of powers—the separation between the executive, the courts and the parliament. Because our courts’ budget is delivered through JACS and much of their administration is overseen by JACS, at least on the surface it looks as though we lack that independence here. It has been argued by JACS officers and, indeed, by the Attorney-General, that there is no compromise. But it is very hard to see how there can be no compromise when the budget of the courts is administered through JACS.

The committee recommended that the government have a good look at, and do an independent review of, the appropriateness of applying the South Australian model of courts administration in the ACT, which would include a comprehensive examination of the associated costs and benefits. To this point, the Attorney-General has tended to reject the South Australian model, primarily on cost grounds, but we have not yet had the cost case presented to us.

One thing that the committee found was that a number of the recommendations made by the Auditor-General have been addressed in the intervening period. After all, it is now three years since her inquiry was conducted. We did note that, with respect to some of the witnesses that we called back a second time to address the efficacy of those actions, most of those people, including the Chief Magistrate, were reasonably happy with the changes that were introduced.

There is no doubt that the Auditor-General’s report was an important and useful one and that it has led to change. However, we will look at theses issues again in a future Assembly or by having another Auditor-General’s inquiry if we do not provide the arguments as to why we would not consider adopting the South Australian model.

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