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Work on Adelaide’s $500 million courts precinct project yet to start, but State Government won’t say why
THE site of the state’s new $500 million courts precinct remains untouched, more than one month after contracts were due to be signed and weeks after construction was to begin.
In response to questions from The Advertiser, the State Government this week said there was “nothing further to add” about the “ongoing process” of building the facility.
According to the government’s own timetable for the project, one of three short-listed consortia was to have been chosen to build the precinct last month.
That timetable also required stage one of construction to begin between January and March 2015 to meet the project’s forecast completion date of 2017.
Opposition leader Steven Marshall branded the situation “a massive broken promise” and “yet another case” of the government failing to deliver.
Law Society of SA President Rocco Perrotta said the state’s “impoverished” legal system “desperately needed” the modern, state-of-the-art facility to go ahead.
“A new courts facility, equipped with modern technology is absolutely necessary to deal with the enormous demands placed on the justice system,” he said.
“Our existing courts are straining under the pressure of excessively long delays and inadequate resources ... the impact of the courts’ antiquated infrastructure and IT is plain to see.
“Those who come into contact with the system, whether they be claimants, defendants or victims, are being disadvantaged as a result.”
In March last year, Attorney-General John Rau revealed a three-year timetable for the project, calling it an “absolutely essential piece of infrastructure”.
He said three development consortia — Activate 40, CBUS and Investec — had been short-listed and the successful tender would be announced in December.
This week, The Advertiser asked six questions of Mr Rau’s office in order to determine the progress of the project.
Those questions were passed on to the office of Infrastructure Minister Stephen Mullighan — son of the late Supreme Court Justice Ted Mullighan — because Mr Rau was on leave.
However, Mr Mullighan was also on leave and a government spokesperson answered all six questions with one sentence.
“The process is ongoing and there’s nothing further to add at this stage,” the spokesperson said.
Mr Perrotta said the legal profession had “enthusiastically welcomed” the precinct announcement after “more than a decade of chronic under-resourcing”.
“South Australia desperately needs a modern, state-of-the-art facility as soon as possible and we are keen to hear how the courts project is progressing,” he said.
Mr Marshall said the government’s one-line answer was not good enough.
“South Australians are being kept in the dark about exactly what progress has been made with the new courts,” he said.
“With a massive court backlog and significant delays in the justice system, we can’t afford delays to the delivery of better court facilities.
“This is a massive broken promise ... what the Attorney-General has delivered since the election is a cut to the courts budget which will lead to court closures.”
The Advertiser’s questions:
1) Which of the three development consortia — Activate 30, CBUS or Investec — was chosen for the project?
2) Is construction still likely to begin in 1st Quarter 2015, as the government had hoped?
3) Is the project still on track for a 2017 opening of the new precinct, as the State Government had hoped?
4) Is the Attorney-General/State Government still satisfied with the progress of this process, as it was in March 2014?
5) Have any changes been made to the plan in light of the announced, impending closures of regional and suburban magistrates courts?
6) Does the Attorney-General/State Government consider this new precinct part of the overall redevelopment of the justice system, as per the recent community consultation paper, or a separate project that was required regardless of any changes within the system and its processes?
The State Government’s answer:
“The process is ongoing and there’s nothing further to add at this stage.”