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Chief Justice criticised over plans for Tasmania

The Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia, Michael Black, has come under attack over Federal Court registry services in Tasmania.

user iconKate Gibbs 09 September 2009 The Bar
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THE Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia, Michael Black, has come under attack over Federal Court registry services in Tasmania. 

In a Senate debate yesterday, the Liberal opposition and Greens criticised the Chief Justice over his response to their concerns about the maintenance of the registry and its services in Hobart. 


Their comments come after a the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Eric Abetz, and the leader of the Greens, Bob Brown, moved a motion in the Senate on 12 August this year, in which they expressed their concerns about Tasmania taking on any surplus capacity from Melbourne. 

"To make it an outpost of the Melbourne registry is completely and utterly unacceptable," Abetz said. 

Abetz said the Chief Justice's response to the various concerns were "very disappointing" and that it "falls short of the mark". 

"I believe that this is another example of bureaucratic interference and bureaucratic empire building at the expense of service delivery. Tasmania is a fully-fledged state of the Federation," he said. 

"With great respect, when you do not have a resident registrar who is sitting there in situ, it is very hard to believe and understand that a deputy district registrar, based in Melbourne, would somehow be able to provide the same sort of service as somebody on the ground in situ everyday."

In his criticism of the Chief Justice, who Abetz said "I must say runs the Federal Court well", Abetz suggested "he is being advised by people who are not necessarily a full bottle on what has actually occurred in Tasmania". 

He rejected the Chief Justice's suggestions that it is possible to reduce the personnel and the services and still assert that the "excellent figures" in the registry will not change, other than to approve.

Brown added to the debate on this matter: "So you take the registrar away, you have the registry down from Melbourne, and he predicts that you are going to get a better outcome. Really? I do not understand the logic of that argument. I do not accept it as a logical argument to be entertained in this chamber."

Brown questioned as well the Chief Justice's claims that the matter was given due consideration. 

"Where was this matter debated in the public arena in Tasmania? I presume there were debates on the matter behind closed doors before it was settled by the court, but, if we are going to seek public debate on this matter, let's have it."

The Law Society of Tasmania has also rallied against the Federal Court's approach in Tasmania. As noted in the Senate debate, the Society has written to the various members of federal Parliament in Tasmania, and the executive director, Martyn Hagan, "has acted and prosecuted the case to say, 'no, this is a retrograde step and shouldn't occur". 

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