Shadow Attorney-General warns funding cuts will have "devastating impact" on country courts

Shadow Attorney General Kyam Maher at the Port Augusta Magistrates Court.
Shadow Attorney General Kyam Maher at the Port Augusta Magistrates Court.

Shadow Attorney-General Kyam Maher has warned of "dramatic consequences" if the state government follows through with potential cuts to courts funding in the upcoming state budget.

The Courts Administration Authority have been asked to make substantial savings in the next financial year, in addition to the required $7.7 million expected by 2021/2022.

Regional courts are expected to be hit the hardest by the savings, with many in danger of redundancies or complete closure.

"What we know is the Courts Administration Authority have said if they face further significant cuts they will have to look at closing country courts and what we are hearing is that will have a devastating impact on the justice system in country areas," Mr Maher said.

"It could have a significant impact on community safety where trials might take a lot longer to go ahead, or might not go ahead because police cant arrange witnesses in another location.

"Victims might not even go ahead with their case if it takes a lot longer than it currently does."

All government agencies have reportedly been asked to look for savings in an attempt to fill a budget black hole caused by a drop in GST receipts.

Latest figures released by the independent Commonwealth Grants Commission (CGC) estimate a cut of $329 million next year (2019-20) in total GST funding to South Australia.

Mr Maher launched an attack on the current Marshall government, labelling the potential cuts as a "budget miss-management".

"When they were in Opposition, Stephen Marshall and Vickie Chapman made a big deal about properly funding courts. If there's a drastic cut, then they have said one thing in opposition but done a very different thing in government," Mr Maher said.

"Their budget mismanagement shouldn't have negative consequences for country people with things like access to justice and court services.

"There is a local member in this area. Dan van Holst Pellekaan sits at the cabinet table and is now a minister. So if courts close in this area then I think people rightfully ask what their local member doing, sitting around the cabinet table as drastic cuts are made that could force closure of country courts."

Local Member for Stuart Dan van Holst Pellekaan told The Transcontinental Mr Maher's recent visit to the region was just an attempt to stir the pot.

"Nice of Kyam Maher to come up from Adelaide and give us advice about what we should do in Port Augusta, but all he is really doing is trying to cause trouble."

"As all taxpayers would expect, consideration is being given to where savings can be made across the entire state, but no one other than the Opposition is suggesting that the Port Augusta Courthouse should close."