[Sitting date: 10 May 2012. Volume:679;Page:2167. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]
CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) to the
Attorney-General: How many District Court Judges currently hold permanent warrants, and of those Judges, how many are unavailable to sit full-time in the District Courts because they hold other appointments?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Attorney-General)
: One hundred and forty-seven, and 10.
Charles Chauvel: Does he agree with advice from the Ministry of Justice that there is a surplus of 23
District Court judges to discharge the workload of the District Courts?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: That figure has been mentioned. For myself, I have doubts as to whether it is a correct figure. As to the number of judges, it will always depend on the circumstances. There are also questions about the correct geographical spread of judges—i.e., whether judges are sitting in the right place.
Charles Chauvel: Is the view from the Ministry of Justice more than just a figure; is it not, in fact, analysis that the ministry has conducted and communicated to both the Attorney-General and the
Chief District Court Judge, and if that is the case, has he formed a view on whether it is correct and robust analysis?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: No, it is nothing more than a preliminary draft. It was based on a number of assumptions, and there is more work being done on it.
Charles Chauvel: Is the
Chief District Court Judge wrong, then, to have described the Ministry of Justice’s view as advice, as she did in her letter to him dated 2 May 2012, where she clearly expressed real concerns that he appeared to have adopted that advice?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: It would be directly contrary to the public interest for me to comment on any communications—be they written or oral—between me and any member of the judiciary.
Charles Chauvel: In that case, when does he intend to resume granting acting warrants to retired District Court judges and to resume recommending the making of new appointments to that court?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Well, I signed off on a few acting warrants for reference to the Governor-General a few days ago.
Charles Chauvel: Will he assure the House that neither he nor any of his ministerial colleagues has admonished any member of the judiciary not to speak publicly about Government policy proposals, or to make submissions to ministerial reviews or parliamentary committees, or to speak with members of Parliament, all actions that they as independent judicial officers are perfectly free to undertake?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Well, I am not in a position to give any such assurance to the House, because I am unaware of what the member is talking about.
Charles Chauvel: If the Attorney-General did become aware of any such action on behalf of his colleagues, would he admonish those colleagues about the inappropriateness of such action?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: The question is hypothetical.
Charles Chauvel: I seek leave to table a letter from the Chief District Court Judge to the Attorney-General dated 2 May 2012 setting out real concerns about what she says is the analysis and the policy of the Ministry of Justice to recommend no further appointments to that court except as are dealt with by attrition.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.