How can public follow Muckaty Federal Court case?

Given the history of the Australian government in relation to the treatment of Australia’s First People’s, and given the imbalance on power between the parties in the Muckaty Federal Court challenge to the nomination of land at Muckaty for a national radioactive waste facility, public scrutiny of the court proceedings is a vital ingredient.

These days a lot of legal arguments are presented in written form and handed up to the Judge. Some of these documents can be obtained for a reasonable cost from the Court – some are not available.

However, if you want to follow proceedings a little more closely, things become difficult and expensive.

There is no public transcript of proceedings available. I got a quote from the private company which has a monopoly on Court transcripts for one day of this case. It came to just under $1,000. (This did not include the film rights!)

Estimate of costs -Transcript
Prepared for: Robert Bruce Reyburn Date: 30-Apr-12
Songlines Movement Estimate ID: VID433/2010_20120328
Jurisdiction: Federal Court of Australia

Email: reyburn@songlines.org.au
Estimate valid until: 10-May-12

Matter number: VID433/2010
Matter title: Mark Lane Jangala v Commonwealth of Australia & Anor
Hearing start date: 28-Mar-12
Number of days: 1
Presiding Judge: J North
Location: Victoria
Transcript type: Full Trasncript
Total Folios 222 Folios
Unit of Charge Rate Per Folio

DATE(S) ESTIMATED FOLIOS TURNAROUND Rate Per Folio SUB TOTAL (Ex GST)
28-Mar-12 222

3 Day $4.06

Estimate Sub-total (Ex GST) $901.32

Estimate GST (10%) $90.13

Estimate Total (Incl GST) $991.45

Realising that I have perfectly good ears and that I could simply listen to the audio recording of the day (that is, I did not need a written transcript) I requested a quote for a copy of the audio. Shock, horror – not possible I was told.

The Registrar of the Court advised me that the proceedings are open to the public and I could attend that way. As the proceedings are in Melbourne and I live in Wollongong NSW this would require me to pay for travel, accommodation and meals. We are not all on fat travel and accommodation expenses.

The move to Open Government must include some means by which members of the public can follow important court cases via the Internet and without having to be presented with such large financial barriers.

Can’t see that happening between now and June when the Muckaty case returns to the Federal Court.

We need some ears in the court room, to provide a twitter account and a written report of the key aspects of the proceedings.