The South Australian government has made little provision for court upgrades and moved to privatise functions of the Land Titles Office in its latest budget, causing controversy among state legal bodies.
Under the budget, which was released on Thursday, the government has allocated no money to new operating initiatives or investment initiatives in the court sector.
The Courts Administration Authority has also seen its budget reduced, from $93,818,000 in 2015-2016 to $93,592,000 in 2016-2017.
Law Society of South Australia president David Caruso, who had previously called for court modernisation to be an urgent priority, blasted the government’s failure to address the issue.
“The budget had little in it to address the delays and building rot affecting our court system,” he said.
“There’s no funding for courts. It’s that simple.”
In a release in the lead-up to the budget, Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis pledged $1 million to develop “a strategic approach to future accommodation needs of the court facilities in the CBD”.
In response, Mr Caruso said there had “been enough studies and withdrawn promises”.
“It sounds like yet another scoping study that will further delay the urgent upgrades required to make courts safe and functional.
“Members of the public should and do expect swift justice from a modern court precinct.”
The budget also announced plans to privatise certain functions of the South Australian Land Titles Office.
CEO of the SA division of the Australian Institute of Conveyancers (AICSA) Rebecca Hayes said the society was “disappointed and concerned” by the move to commercialise the institution.
“Given the figure touted for the sale is between $300 and $400 million, it appears to be a short-term gain for the government, with long-term and yet unknown ramifications for the South Australian public,” she said.
Her views were shared by AICSA’s president Tim O’Halloran, who warned that any commercialisation of the office should be carefully considered.
“Unfortunately the information provided today is light on detail and we are yet to see the benefits for our profession or the public,” he said.