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Statutes Amendment (Court Fees) Bill

Second Reading

Adjourned debate on second reading

(Continued from 31 October 2017)

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (12:04): The proposal we are considering today is a result of a review of court fees undertaken by the Courts Administration council. Essentially, it has been suggested that lodgement fees for civil claims in the Magistrates Court should be tiered and a new setting-down fee should be introduced for listing civil matters for trial in the Magistrates Court. Although there is no suggestion that fees be tiered for any of the superior courts, the bill makes the relevant changes to allow for this in the future. I understand this has already happened in most other states, with the exception of New South Wales and Tasmania.

In the Attorney-General's second reading, he said:

"Introduction of a fee for listing a civil action should encourage more parties to attempt to settle civil claims before trial and reduce the number of civil claims being listed for trial".

I am not convinced that this is the only outcome it will have and am very concerned that increasing fees will only serve as a barrier to justice for those who cannot afford it.

I thank the Attorney-General's staff, who have been very helpful in providing information—comparing the fees South Australia currently has, what the proposed changes are under this bill and how this compares to other states. The fee increases will result in South Australia having the highest fees for civil claims in the Magistrates Court. This is even the case when we compare our fees with Queensland, which has an upper threshold of $150,000; that is, $50,000 more than South Australia's threshold.

I am alarmed at the increases the government is proposing. Advance SA would like to know why the court fees in South Australia are so much higher than interstate. Why does it cost more to seek justice in South Australia than it does in any other state in the country? Unfortunately, it is not only court fees where we are the most expensive; we have some of the country's most expensive speeding fines, stamp duties on property, land tax and workers' compensation premiums, not to mention the cost of electricity.

The tiered civil claim lodgement fees and new setting-down fees are expected to generate an additional $607,000 per annum. I would like to know what the revenue is going towards. Will it be put back into the courts to upgrade the facilities, which definitely need maintenance work undertaken? I am yet to see a compelling reason as to why I should support this bill and reserve my right to oppose it in later stages.