In a speech to Parliament this morning, Federal Member for Newcastle Sharon Claydon urged the Prime Minister to step in and direct the Attorney-General to fill the vacancy that has left Newcastle’s Federal Circuit Court down a judge for six months.
Ms Claydon, who has been campaigning for a replacement judge since Judge Matthew Myers left the Newcastle Registry in February, said she was at her wits end and had written to the Prime Minister urging him to intervene.
“After multiple letters to the Attorney-General had no effect, I wrote to the Prime Minister more than a month ago calling on him to compel his Attorney-General to do his job. To date I’m still waiting for a reply,” Ms Claydon said.
“It’s hard to overstate the impact this is having on families dealing with multiple and complex issues including marital breakdown, child custody disputes, domestic violence and drug and alcohol abuse.
“The fact that neither the Attorney-General nor the Prime Minister seem able to recognise the danger they are putting our community in is deeply concerning.”
Ms Claydon said the Attorney-General had received multiple warnings from senior members of Newcastle’s legal community that the vacancy was putting lives at risk with data from the Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court confirming that the courts are indeed in crisis.
“Last month, data that was prepared for me by the Chief Judge Pascoe, head of the Federal Circuit Court, revealed that Newcastle’s Federal Circuit Court judges are straining under workloads twice the size of the national average as a direct result of this Government’s failure to fill this critical judicial position,” Ms Claydon said.
“In fact, Newcastle judges are projected to have an average of 770 matters each on their books in 2016-17 compared to the national average of 376. This is indefensible.
“The Prime Minister needs to step in and direct the Attorney-General to appoint a replacement judge to Newcastle’s Federal Circuit Court as a matter of absolute urgency.”