Member for Western Victoria
Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party

Administration of Victorian Law Courts

I rise today to make some comments on the report from the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office on the administration of Victorian courts. Court Services Victoria, or CSV, have an important role to provide support for the court system in Victoria to enable the courts to do things that are most important for the community—that is, to uphold justice, order and human rights. If CSV is unable to do its job properly, we risk the delivery of justice in Victoria. I note that CSV is a relatively new entity, having been hived off from the Department of Justice in 2014. I also recognise the unusual hybrid management structure, with multiple CEOs reporting both to the heads of the courts as well as to the CSV CEO. The picture the Auditor-General report paints of the Victorian court system is very concerning. The report highlights an inadequate, ageing and inefficient network of court facilities around the state and a very large and growing case backlog. More troublingly, while the government has made additional funding available to address these issues, the bulk of the report is concerned with describing the recent history of inadequate governance of CSV, an organisation which so far has been unable to address inefficiencies and duplication of services. I have said before that the state of some court facilities in regional Victoria is disgraceful. It appears that CSV is well aware of this issue. In its own strategic asset plan, CSV reports only 16 per cent of the 75 buildings in its portfolio as meeting the CSV building condition assessment benchmark. The audit report also talks about 179 additional courtrooms being required over the next 15 years and the likely divestment of smaller court facilities in regional Victoria. The latter comes with some risk that for regional Victorians judicial services will be harder to obtain, and I do not agree that regional Victorians should have their physical access to justice made any less due to the lack of investment by the state government. Early in 2021 data given by the Attorney-General put the court backlog in the realm of 200 000 cases and growing. The government made $210 million available in the most recent budget to address the backlog, and I applaud this move. The question in my mind, though, is: is CSV capable of delivering? The Auditor-General’s report describes poor governance of CSV by the Courts Council. At the time of the establishment of CSV in 2014, the Courts Council, effectively the board of the CSV, could not even agree on what CSV’s role should be. This led to delays in the creation and implementation of fundamental strategic and corporate plans. It was not until 2020 that a strategic plan was agreed to and implemented. As a result of this failure, CSV has had six years of missed opportunities when it could have worked to improve its delivery model, remove inefficiencies in the Victorian court system and be as ready as it could be to meet the challenges now before it. I am encouraged by the adoption of the CSV strategic plan in 2020 and the activity that this has generated. Whilst some more performance measurement needs to be done, CSV now has a defined road forward to improve its service delivery model. I remain concerned that these changes may be too little too late. I am concerned the court system will not be able to catch up with the growing backlog of cases and that the divestment of courts outside Melbourne means Victorians in regional areas face further barriers to prompt access to judicial services. As they say, justice delayed is justice denied.


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