Posts for March 2017

Courts can be neglected no longer

Wednesday, March 15, 2017 10:00am

Imagine you have just won $250,000 in the lottery and you have your heart set on a top-of-the-range Mercedes AMG E63, but it will eat up your entire windfall. If you purchase your dream car, you won’t be able to fund the desperately needed renovation of your lean-to at the back of the house.

Alternatively, you could buy a still luxurious Mercedes E300 and also replace your lean-to with an extension of a couple of extra rooms for the family. Surely this makes more sense?

The Mercedes AMG E63 is analogous to the new Royal Adelaide Hospital. The nRAH is the most expensive hospital in the world. News reports suggest it the third most expensive building on earth.

The aforementioned crumbling lean-to is akin our courts infrastructure. While $2.3 billion has been spent on building a new hospital, nothing has been spent on our aging and crumbling court buildings.

Hospitals, of course, are among the most vital pieces of civil infrastructure in any society. It is right that health care is a priority of government and that our hospitals are built to provide high quality health services. Still, surely a new hospital could have been built for $1.8 billion and the remaining $500,000 be used for a new courts precinct.

The new Calvary Adelaide Hospital which is replacing the Calvary Wakefield Hospital on Angas St is being built for $300 million and will have 350 beds. The nRAh has 800 beds. That’s $857,000 per patient at the Calvary compared to $2.9 million per patient at the nRAH.

In 2013 the State Government announced – and shelved a year later - a $500 million courts precinct in Victoria Sq. The abandonment of this project is a lamentable missed opportunity to bring our justice system into the 21st century and create hundreds of jobs in the process.

People’s lives are not saved in courtrooms, but nevertheless courts can have a profound impact on people’s lives. The court are places where, day in day out, justice is served, rights are protected, disputes settled, compensation awarded, victims protected, and pivotal decisions affecting all of us are made.

Currently, these vital civil functions are being hindered by antiquated, run-down infrastructure that presents a work health and safety hazard and is struggling to deal with the relentless churn of cases before it.

While the new Royal Adelaide has been built to withstand a once in a thousand year earthquake, our Supreme Court roof is at risk of caving in whenever there’s some heavy rain. Buckets are used to catch leaking water. Wall cracks are turning into crevices. Shamefully, lawyers and clients with disabilities can’t access some court rooms.

The law and justice should not be neglected altogether just because health is regarded as a higher priority. The Law Society will be vigorously pursuing the construction of a new courts facility, and in the lead-up to next year’s State election will call on all political parties to outline, as a core policy, their plan for SA’s courts.


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