In 2019–20, the total number of filings (including appeals) in the Court decreased by 26 per cent to 4,469. Filings in the Court’s original jurisdiction (excluding appeals) were also down 25 per cent at 3,443.
Significant decreases in filings in 2019–20 were experienced in company winding up applications dealt with by registrars of the Court and appeals from the Federal Circuit Court.
On 25 March 2020, the Commonwealth government introduced changes to corporate insolvency and bankruptcy legislation to provide relief to companies and individuals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the introduction of the Coronavirus Economic Response Package Omnibus Act 2020 (Cth).
The six months relief provided by these amendments included changes to the threshold amounts for the issue of statutory demands and bankruptcy notices to $20,000 up from $2,000 and $5,000 respectively, and an increase in the time to respond to a statutory demand or a bankruptcy notice from 21 days to six months. These amendments have had a direct impact on filings in corporate insolvency and bankruptcy and specifically the workload of registrars through this period.
While filings decreased gradually during the first three quarters of the 2019–20 financial year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic there was a more significant decrease in overall filings during the final quarter.
Combined filings in the Federal Court and the Federal Circuit Court in general federal law decreased by 8 per cent to 13,776.
The Court’s registries also provide registry services for the Federal Circuit Court. The workload of the Federal Circuit Court has continued to grow over the last five years.
The Court’s registrars continue to hear and determine a substantial number of cases commenced in the Federal Circuit Court. Federal Court registrars dealt with, and disposed of, 1,891 Federal Circuit Court bankruptcy matters, which equates to 90 per cent of the Federal Circuit Court’s bankruptcy caseload.
When considering total disposals (7,779), 44 per cent of the Federal Circuit Court’s general federal law workload is dealt with by registrars, and 56 per cent is dealt with by judges.
Further information about the Court’s workload, including the management of appeals, is included in Part 3: Report on Court performance and Appendix 5: Workload statistics.
The Court has two targets for timely completion of cases:
- Eighty-five per cent of cases completed within 18 months of commencement
During the reporting year, the Court completed 93 per cent of cases in less than 18 months. As shown in Figure A5.5 and Table A5.5 in Appendix 5, over the last five years, the Court has consistently exceeded its benchmark of 85 per cent, with the average over the five years being 93.1 per cent.
- Judgments to be delivered within three months
The Court has a goal of delivering reserved judgments within a period of three months. Success in meeting this goal depends upon the complexity of the case and other issues affecting the Court.
During 2019–20, the Court handed down 2,313 judgments for 2,158 court files (some files involve more than one judgment being delivered – e.g. interlocutory decisions – and sometimes one judgment will cover multiple files). This is an increase from last year of 46 judgments. The data indicates that 77 per cent of appeals (both Full Court and single judge) were delivered within three months and 79 per cent of judgments at first instance were delivered within three months of the date of being reserved.