BILL: Court of Appeal

Today Mark outlined the Greens' support for this Government Bill which will divide the work of the Supreme Court into two parts - the General Division and the Court of Appeal. 

Supreme Court (Court of Appeal) Amendment Bill 2019

I rise to support the second reading of this bill and, in doing so, I would like to thank the Attorney-General for the time that she spent with me, including working through some of the Chief Justice's concerns in relation to the bill. I understand that in the other place members were concerned that they had not seen the Chief Justice's correspondence, but I am satisfied that the Attorney-General did put on the record all of the concerns that were raised.

The Chief Justice's views are not the only consideration to take into account. We also have a contribution from the South Australian Bar Association, the Legal Services Commission and the Law Society of South Australia. It is probably fair to say that this is not a topic that keeps the average member of the public awake at night. It is not something that occupies the minds of people much outside the legal profession, but the reason why the Greens are ultimately supporting the government on this bill are twofold. First of all, we have looked at the statistics for the delivery of judgements and we find them to be unacceptable.

It is very difficult to imagine a line of work where you can get away with sitting on a matter for a year or more and not be accountable to anyone. Judges are in a unique position because the people who are waiting for judgement, hoping with their fingers crossed that the judgement will be in their favour, are unlikely to complain. In response to that situation, I know that we have set up an alternative regime whereby complaints can effectively be filtered so as to be unidentifiable. Nevertheless, the Greens are supportive of anything that might reduce that backlog of judgements. We think it is unacceptable.

The second reason is that we are concerned about the reputation of our highest court, in particular its reputation amongst the judges of even higher courts, such as the High Court of Australia. It is probably overstating the case but it was put to me that, in an application for leave to appeal to the High Court, the first question was, 'Where is it from?' If the answer was 'South Australia', the response was, 'Leave granted.' That is very likely overstating the case but there is a risk, if we do not look at alternative models to structure our judiciary, that there may become even worse quality control issues in the future.

It is about a combination of those two things, namely, quality control and delays in delivering judgements, plus the supportive submissions that were made, in particular by the Bar Association. The one that is probably more influential to us is not the Bar Association or the Law Society—as important as they are, because they are very much part of the system—but the Legal Services Commission. Yes, it is also part of the system but their clientele are effectively legal aid clients. They are the people who are not the big end of town. They are people who need help with the provision of legal services, and they want that help to be granted in a timely manner.

When the Legal Services Commission, representing that pool of clients, comes out saying, 'We think a separate appeal division of the Supreme Court is a good idea,' that carries a fair bit of weight with the Greens. With those few brief words, we will be supporting the second reading of this bill.