COURTS ADMINISTRATION QUESTION

Monday, 23 November 2020 ESTIMATES COMMITTEE A Page 27 

 COURTS ADMINISTRATION AUTHORITY, $109,443,000 

The Hon. G.G. BROCK: apologise; I have just got here because we had a death in our family yesterday, so I am sorry I am late. Further to the member for Kaurna’s question, with the investigations for supporting claims by sheriffs of bullying to the CAA members, can you tell me how many were done and how many came back in favour of the sheriff who made the bullying claim? 

The Hon. V.A. CHAPMAN: Member for Frome, thank you for joining us and I am sorry to hear of your bereavement. The Chief Justice has outlined quite a detailed process about what was in mind in relation to the outstanding claims, as agreed to the committee to provide answers to that on notice. I will just refer to him in case there is anything else in your question in addition to the issues that were previously raised. 

Chief Justice KOURAKIS: I will have to take on notice as to the exact numbers. Can I just say that, again on the material that I have seen—the publicly open material—the complaints are more about particular incidents than about general harassment or bullying, but I can get you numbers on particular incidents. 

It is the kind of complaint that says, ‘I was in this common room. Sheriffs Officer A walked past and pushed me and he was angry at the time.’ That was a complaint made by a supervising sheriff or a manager about a Sheriffs Officer, not the other way around. I am struggling to think, on the material that I have seen, whether there was ever an accusation of a manager either pushing or in any other way assaulting or yelling at a sheriff. I might be wrong but I just cannot bring it to mind at the moment. 

The sort of complaint that has been made by sheriffs about managers has been more along the lines of unfair treatment—that is, not treating everyone the same, whether it is in terms of working conditions or whether they are allowed to go out for a smoke or not and things of nature. I will get the numbers and respond in writing. 

The Hon. G.G. BROCK: I have another question, if may, Mr Chairman. Are the investigations put out to tender or is it the same firm or person who does all the investigations on behalf of the CAA against any bullying claims? 

The Hon. V.A. CHAPMAN: I will just indicate again, member for Frome, that there has been a proposal set out to the committee already, but I will invite the Chief Justice to repeat some of that for your benefit. 

Chief Justice KOURAKIS: There is a panel and selections are made from the panel. The numbers vary. There is one particular investigator who has had a significant number more than others, but that would be affected depending on where the investigation is and whether the investigator is prepared to travel there. It depends on their availability. If they are new and they are starting up, they will get more. 

Can I say this: again, under the cloak of secrecy, an allegation was made to the committee that there was a special relationship between the State Courts Administrator and one of those investigators. The State Courts Administrator denied that on oath. Nothing was put to her in any sort of particularity to support the allegation and yet the allegation is still published in the committee’s 

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report. It has been denied under oath by the State Courts Administrator and I have not seen anything from the committee that would cause me to doubt her sworn testimony. 

Mr PICTON: Further to that, I understand the Chief Justice has said when he was before the committee that extra funding, especially within the regional courts, would assist with altering workplace culture and assist with bullying and harassment issues faced by the authority. Has the administration authority been provided with sufficient resources to tackle the issue of bullying and harassment? 

The Hon. V.A. CHAPMAN: I have not read all the transcripts that support the report as a result of the inquiry by the Statutory Authorities Review Committee, but I think I have just comprehensively heard today a suggestion to the committee by the Chief Justice that the level of bullying and harassment that has been referred to therein is not accepted. 

That being the case, I would find it unusual to find a statement. I am happy to have a look at the report and you can indicate to me if there is a direct quote that says that to be able to deal with the bullying and harassment cases that apparently are denied, he needs more resources. It seems rather inconsistent to me, but I am happy for you to reference it. 

Chief Justice KOURAKIS: Can I just say that I am not denying it; I am just making the obvious point that I have not seen confidential material. The material I have seen is not indicative of that; it is more indicative of particular incidents of disciplinary conduct. 

Everyone would like more money to do things better. I would love to have a bundle of money to start retraining that would start with Sheriffs Officers, so that their job and focus is oriented towards, as I said to the committee, being client services officers. For many of them there could be that orientation; it is a bit trickier for those people who have to handle prisoners. 

That would be expensive. I do not have the current resources to do it, the Courts Administration Authority does not. I would love to have that to roll out a full training program, and I am sure many departments would. Whether I make a request for that sort of funding will be informed by the discussions with Sheriffs Officers and the survey and what is reported back from the grievance mechanism—which, I hope, will be established very quickly. 

Mr PICTON: Thank you. There is clearly no funding in this budget to deal with the training and workplace culture issues that were identified. In terms of the—  

The Hon. V.A. CHAPMAN: Can I just respond—  

Mr PICTON: Sorry, Attorney; if I can just ask the question—  

The Hon. V.A. CHAPMAN: Well, you have made a statement to that effect—  

Mr PICTON: No—  

The Hon. V.A. CHAPMAN: I just want to be clear; I think the Chief Justice has made it clear that he has not asked for that at this point, but he may indeed do that once he has undertaken his review of the matter. I am not sure how there would be extra funding in for something that has not been asked for. 

Mr PICTON: Quite clearly—and I am happy to read the transcript, if you like—the Chief Justice did make comments. However, I am not intending to get into an argument: I am trying to ask a question, Attorney, which is the purpose of this exercise. 

Given those issues, there has not been any additional funding—which, I think, is quite clear now. The Chief Justice has raised issues today in terms of setting up a new grievance process, bringing in consultants to undertake a survey. Will they be provided with additional funding from the state government or will the Courts Administration Authority have to find funding for that from within its own resources? 

The Hon. V.A. CHAPMAN: At this stage there has not been any request for funding for consultants or otherwise. If you have a look at the annual report of the Courts Administration Authority, you will see that considerable money is spent, as part of their budget each year, for 

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consultants. There were a number of those in the 2020 report, for example, with nearly a million dollars on recruitment consultancies. 

It has a budget for consultancies, depending on what it wants to use it for. I have heard the Chief Justice give an indication of a proposed course of action that he would like to take to review and then consider matters that have been raised before the Statutory Authorities Review Committee, and to consider those recommendations. If I receive something it will, of course, be considered. 

The CHAIR: If I can interrupt, we are due to finish this examination at 2 o’clock. 

Mr PICTON: Thank you, sir. I am trying to use the time efficiently. Going back to Mr Morris, how was he engaged for his role assisting the council? Was he engaged through an open procurement process or a tender? Is he a consultant? Is he full time? What are his expenses, and where does the money for that come from? 

The Hon. V.A. CHAPMAN: I will ask the Chief Justice or one of his advisers to answer that. 

Chief Justice KOURAKIS: He receives $10,000 annually. I asked her—I am not sure whether it was Ms Burgess or Mr Thompson before her—to approach Mr Morris. I knew him because he regularly gives evidence in court in commercial matters, and I valued his intellect and understanding. I thought he would do the job well. It was not an open process. He was approached, and he has served the council very well in what must be six or so years now, maybe more. He has provided great assistance, for $10,000. He enjoys it. 

Mr PICTON: When he sits on the Courts Administration Council meetings, what is his function and role, his purpose, there? 

Chief Justice KOURAKIS: He does not vote. As I said earlier, he is there to test our approach, to challenge us, to question us, and to provide his experience from private enterprise and his work as an accountant. Can I just say that Mr Pearce, who is sitting behind me, has now served the Courts Administration Authority for a decade and has been at estimates committee hearings in all that time, and this will be his last one. We had thought that he might get on the tram and go home directly after this, but we are going to need him for a bit longer. I just want to acknowledge his excellent service to the Courts Administration Authority and to this house through his attendance here. 

Mr PICTON: I share that acknowledgement, and I am sure he will miss coming to estimates committees in the future. 

The CHAIR: Thank you for that, Chief Justice. 

The Hon. V.A. CHAPMAN: Given that statement, if there are any last questions you think Mr Pearce might be able to assist the committee, I am sure he would love one last question. No? You are relieved, Mr Pearce, and thank you for your service. 

The CHAIR: Thank you, Chief Justice. There being no further questions, I declare the examination of the proposed payments for the Courts Administration Authority complete. 

ATTORNEY-GENERAL’S DEPARTMENT, $182,398,000 
ADMINISTERED ITEMS FOR THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL’S DEPARTMENT, $72,300,000 

Minister: 

Hon. V.A. Chapman, Deputy Premier, Attorney-General, Minister for Planning and Local Government. 

Departmental Advisers: 

Ms C. Mealor, Chief Executive, Attorney-General’s Department. 

Mr A. Swanson, Chief Financial Officer, Attorney-General’s Department.