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'Here he goes again': Chief Justice on court inadequacies

Western Australia has reached crisis point as an inadequately resourced Supreme Court causes confusion and uncertainty for lawyers and litigants._x000D_

user iconKate Gibbs 15 September 2009 The Bar
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WESTERN Australia has reached crisis point as an inadequately resourced Supreme Court causes confusion and uncertainty for lawyers and litigants. 

The Chief Justice of Western Australia, Wayne Martin, says he and his predecessor have "sounded like a broken record" for 20 years as they have endeavored to draw the attention of the Government and the public to the inadequate facilities provided by the State's highest court. 


Chief Justice Martin said he has repeated "interminably a plaintive cry to Government to provide the building we need to enable us to perform out important functions safely and efficiently". 

"The unsuccessful pleas have become so familiar that I am sure many of you are thinking - 'ho hum, here he goes again'," the Chief Justice said. 

But the situation is now desperate, he said, claiming the Government needs to provide the resources to undertake detailed planning for the building. 

The Court operates on two sites in Perth, and on top of a recently opened District Court building, judges, lawyers and litigants are now operating from three different sites, which are blocks apart. 

"The public confusion and uncertainty which this generates, because litigants and lawyers cannot be certain where they will be required to go until the day of their hearing, and the inefficiencies and wasted costs that flow from operating across three sites are obvious," Chief Justice Martin said. 

Meanwhile, the executive government in other states make massive contributions to their respective courts, he said. 

In Brisbane, work is underway on a project costing about $600 million for the construction of a new site for the Supreme and District Courts. In Sydney, a refurbishment of the Supreme Court of New South Wales is underway. The cost is expected to reach tens of millions of dollars. 

Despite the public money spent on preparing repeated submissions to Government for the provision of the facilities, non of the submissions have yet found approval, said the Chief Justice. 

Shortly after his appointment to the Supreme Court, an evaluation of the Court found it would be cheaper for Government to provide a purpose-built facility for the Supreme Court than to continue the "current expensive and inefficient arrangements", Chief Justice Martin said. 

"A logical person would ask why a proposal which was, over the longer term cheaper for the State and

vastly preferable for the court, was rejected. 

"The answer to that question seems to be that the resolution of competing priorities for public resources is not always logical but may at times be political. 

"Railway lines, roads, tunnels, theatres and sporting stadia seem to be more attractive to Government than providing the Supreme Court with the building that it obviously needs. No doubt that is due to an accurate perception that the other projects I have mentioned are more popular with the electorate than spending money on a court house," said the Chief Justice. 

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