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Performance measure 3.1: Legal and policy advice on the federal justice system

Legal frameworks underpinning the federal court system are effective and reforms are considered and implemented to the benefit of people in Australia, including through projects to enhance the jurisdiction and improve the capacity, accessibility and efficiency of the federal courts.

This performance measure was partly achieved.

Performance targets

Result

3.1.1 Stakeholder and client satisfaction greater than 80% in relation to:

  • effectiveness (expertise and quality of relationship)
  • efficiency (timeliness and responsiveness)

PARTLY ACHIEVED

3.1.2 Qualitative analysis shows that policy advice is effective in improving the operation and accessibility of the federal justice system

ACHIEVED

Source

  • Portfolio Budget Statements 2020–21, Outcome 1, Program 1.1, page 30
  • Corporate Plan 2020–24, page 28

3.1.1 In response to questions related to this target in the department’s stakeholder survey, 82% of respondents rated our effectiveness positively and 72% rated our efficiency positively, below the target of 80%. A detailed explanation of the stakeholder survey methodology and results is at Appendix 2: Methodologies.

The effectiveness of our engagement with stakeholders was rated well. In response to detailed questions about our effectiveness, 69% of respondents agreed that staff were respectful, effective in their communication and provided sufficient information. The achievement of the effectiveness target reflects our high level of expertise in providing legal and policy advice on issues relating to the federal court system, as well as the positive relationships maintained with stakeholders.

In relation to our efficiency in the provision of legal and policy advice on the federal justice system, the clear delineation of responsibilities between the department and stakeholder organisations was rated highly by respondents. However, other aspects relating to timeliness of advice and provision of information in a timely manner were rated less favourably.

A number of factors contributed to our result for efficiency. This included a consistently high workload involving high-profile and evolving and competing priorities. Many of these arose in the context of the pandemic.

3.1.2 Qualitative analysis demonstrated that our legal policy advice was effective in improving the operation and accessibility of the federal justice system. Achievement of this target reflects our ability to provide sound policy advice on issues including legal frameworks underpinning the federal court system, appointment of judicial officers, access to justice issues, resourcing and operations of the federal courts and opportunities for systemic reform.

To evaluate performance, a panel assessed policy outputs against the criteria of context, analysis, advice and action to measure whether each was effective. The panel reviewed each piece of policy work both independently and collectively, and assigned each piece a score out of 5. A score of 1–2 equated to a performance result of ‘not achieved’, a score of 3 equated to ‘partly achieved’ and a score of 4–5 equated to ‘achieved’. Overall, through the individual and collective assessments the assessed policy work averaged a score of 4, indicating that the target had been achieved. Further information on the assessment process is at Appendix 2: Methodologies.

A number of factors contributed to our success in meeting this target. We maintained strong stakeholder relationships that allowed us to identify and advise the Attorney-General on reform opportunities and to mitigate risks and challenges faced by the courts. We also established procedures and manuals to ensure tasks were completed consistently and to a high standard.

Federal justice system policy development

During the year, we progressed initiatives to improve the federal justice system. Examples provided form part of our larger pool of policy work to provide context for the outputs that were assessed:

  • We developed legislative amendments to bring together the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court under a unified administrative structure. This work establishes a single point of entry into the federal family law courts and provides for the making of common rules, practice notes and directions. The reforms end the confusion experienced by families navigating a split family court system and will mean more family law cases are finalised each year.
  • We progressed 16 judicial appointments, including 2 to the High Court, 8 to the Federal Circuit Court, 3 to the Family Court and 3 to the Federal Court.
  • We conducted a joint consultation process with the Treasury on a parliamentary committee recommendation to legislate a minimum rate of return to members of a class action.
  • We secured additional funding for:
    • federal family courts to reform and optimise their case management processes. The streamlined case management model reduces the backlog of family law cases and will shorten the time taken for family law matters to be resolved
    • an additional judge in the Federal Circuit Court and 6 judges in the Federal Circuit Court; 3 to address a backlog of migration matters and 3 in the family law jurisdiction
    • upgrades to Family Court facilities in Rockhampton, Queensland, and Launceston, Tasmania, which will allow the court to maintain its presence in these locations and form part of the continued improvement of legal services for regional Australia
    • the federal family law courts to maintain specialised court lists for urgent matters arising as a result of the pandemic, including travel arrangements in relation to border restrictions.
  • We progressed reforms to defamation law as part of an inter-jurisdictional Defamation Working Party that makes recommendations to Attorneys-General on reforms to the Model Defamation Provisions.
  • We developed a policy proposal for the government to lead national discussions with state and territory governments to develop a joint program of work that strengthens the justice response to sexual assault, sexual harassment and coercive control.