Page 2909 - Week 09 - Thursday, 13 August 2015

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The new Belconnen police station was also located next to ACT Policing’s headquarters, the Winchester Police Centre, allowing for some sharing of services and amenities. The state-of-the-art police station in Belconnen puts the force in a better position to service Belconnen’s growing population and expanding suburbs. The investment in justice and emergency services that the ACT government has committed to in this budget will guarantee that Canberrans continue to receive the assistance they need.

This budget also provides over $150 million in annual funding for the justice system. The 2015-16 ACT budget recognises the importance of access to justice, investing more than $3.1 million in additional new funding. Some measures, such as the $867,000 in funding for the Legal Aid Commission over a two-year term, are designed to offset Abbott government cuts to the legal sector. $2.1 million over four years will allow adults to participate in the restorative justice process, both as an alternative to and in conjunction with imprisonment. Having recently attended the seminar on restorative justice here in the Assembly, I can see how enthusiastic stakeholders are to extend this strategic initiative.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (5.28): I will speak briefly and pick up on the theme that Mr Hanson raised towards the conclusion of his remarks in relation to the fifth justice for the Supreme Court, which is, as all of us in this place know, long overdue. I want to indicate just how long overdue this matter is by reflecting on the current blitz we are having in the Supreme Court and the impact that is having across the territory.

The current blitz in the Supreme Court and the ongoing case management process are designed over the next year or so to give priority to criminal matters over all other matters. This has been commented on adversely by very many members of the legal fraternity and many people in business who have civil matters which are being held up for an inordinately long time because the Supreme Court has decided, under direction from the government, that there should be an undue emphasis on clearing up the backlog of criminal cases.

Madam Assistant Speaker, that will create an increasing backlog of civil cases and, more importantly—this was a matter that you touched on the other day in your comments in relation to community services—I am starting to hear reports that adoptions will not be processed in the court. I have been told by someone who has been approved for adoption for the children in her care that she will not be able to proceed with this matter for 2½ years because adoptions are currently not the priority of the Supreme Court as they have been asked to concentrate on criminal matters. A person who has had children in her care for over three years now and has had final orders for a long period of time, has been approved and has had all the paperwork done to have an adoption finalised, is not able to finalise that adoption, as she has been advised, for 2½ years, mainly because of delays in the Supreme Court.

I draw this to the Attorney-General’s attention and ask him to address this issue: if the blitz is going to continue to concentrate principally on criminal matters, what is happening to the other lists that are important in the Supreme Court? What about the effect that has on business, adoptions and other orders in association with the care and protection system? This is a very serious matter, and it needs to be addressed by this government.

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