Page 2825 - Week 08 - Tuesday, 5 August 2008
They are the three people that we met with. The report continues:
The Courts Administration Authority is the executive arm of the Council. The Administrator of the CAA is its chief executive and is responsible to the Council and subject to its control and direction …
The Administrator is independent of the Executive Government and manages the CAA in consultation with an Executive Management Committee …
Funding for the Council comes through Parliamentary appropriation against a detailed budget prepared by the Council. However, the Council’s budget requires the agreement of the Attorney-General, thus balancing the independence of the courts with the need for direct parliamentary accountability for appropriations. The Council has “considerable autonomy” in managing its budget …
I think there is considerable scope for improvement in the situation that presently exists in the ACT. It was certainly one of the stronger messages that came through when we heard evidence from the magistrates, in particular about the need for a greater level of capacity to manage their own budget. While no members of the judiciary elected to appear before the committee, for reasons related to the separation of powers, I did have informal discussions with members of the Supreme Court here. I believe that the sentiment that is contained in this report and that was conveyed to us by the magistrates is consistent in terms of having a better situation with the budget. Recommendation 10 reads:
… that the Law Courts and Tribunals Unit prepare its own draft budget for submission to the Attorney-General and that a copy of its budget proposal be provided to the Standing Committee on Legal Affairs of the Legislative Assembly for comment at the same time as it is provided to the Attorney-General.
I am not entirely sure whether the legal affairs committee is the right place for it or whether it ought to go to the public accounts committee; nevertheless the principle of budget preparation is one that is worthy of support.
The public accounts committee has also advocated that an independent, comprehensive cost analysis for court services be conducted to establish an appropriate level of base funding for the courts. One of the problems that we heard in evidence was that there was a need for a clear indication of base funding. This means the courts are able to operate with some degree of certainty going forward. It diminishes the criticism that the courts do not live within their means. Once that base budget is settled, more appropriate increases over time can be agreed upon without having the level of uncertainty that presently exists.
We heard assurances along the way that there was far greater communication between the magistrates, the judiciary and JACS. In private discussions with those involved in the magistracy and the judiciary, there was some scepticism about the level of progress being made in that regard. For that reason, I encourage an invitation to be extended to the Chief Magistrate to reappear. I was not a member of the public accounts committee at that stage, although I had hoped to be part of that process. I did not have the opportunity because of other competing demands. I think it is very