Media Release - Brandis has more time on his hands but is still sitting on them

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29 September 2015

Joint Media Release
Graham Perrett MP
Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Shadow Attorney General, Member for Moreton

Sharon Claydon MP
Federal Member for Newcastle

The Attorney-General has still not given any indication that he is about to appoint a replacement for Judge Coakes from the Newcastle registry of the Federal Circuit Court.

Member for Newcastle, Sharon Claydon, wrote to the Attorney-General on 24 August raising concerns about the delay in Judge Coakes being replaced. 

A letter from the Attorney-General’s Chief of Staff to Ms Claydon says that the A-G gives “careful consideration” to the appointment of a judge and that such “careful consideration takes time”.

In what can only be described as a blame-shift, the Attorney General’s office then says that it is a “matter for the Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court, Mr John Pascoe AO CVO, to decide how best to manage the judicial resources of the Court on an ongoing basis”.

Chief Judge Pascoe took the unusual step of releasing a media statement on 19 August 2015.  Chief Judge Pascoe made some comments in that statement about the resourcing of his courts in the central west of New South Wales.  Some of his comments were directed to judges not being replaced.  He said:-

“However, until Judges are replaced delays will continue to increase.”

Delay is a serious problem for women desperately trying to leave a relationship.

A report on the legal barriers to economic equality after family violence by the Women’s Legal Service Victoria released last week says that delays can “have serious implications for women living in financial hardship”.

“Families will continue to suffer in Newcastle until a judge is appointed to replace Judge Coakes”, said Member for Newcastle, Sharon Claydon.

“Newcastle has a high proportion of complex cases waiting to be heard in the courts.  It is not good enough that the Attorney-General is causing additional distress to these families due to his inaction.”

“It is the job of the First Law Officer to appoint judges.  This is another example of the Attorney-General not doing his job”, said the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Shadow Attorney-General, Graham Perrett.

“His management of the Arts portfolio was so appalling he has been stripped of that responsibility.  Surely the Attorney-General now has time to do the job of being the First Law Officer and appoint judges to fill the vacancies created by recent retirements.

“It took Senator Brandis 560 days to replace a judge in the Sydney registry; Justice Bell retired seven months ago from the Brisbane registry and has still not been replaced; and Judge Coakes retired three months ago from Newcastle and has not been replaced.  There are at least three other Federal Circuit Court judges who have not been replaced in other registries around the country.

“The Turnbull Liberal Government’s announcement of a women’s safety package to tackle the epidemic of violence against women was a very welcome start to tackle this problem.

“Court delays affect women and children fleeing from domestic violence.  The Attorney-General is out of step with his own Government by not taking seriously the problem of delays in courts.

“There is a simple step that would instantly help this problem; for the Attorney-General to do what he should have done months ago and appoint new judges to replace those that have retired.”

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