Save Our Rail was once more in Court today for a Directions Hearing.
Hunter Development Corporation had lodged an Appeal after SOR won a Supreme Court judgment on 24th December 2014. Our position was that the closure of a rail line was in breach of the law at the time. The Transport Administration Act intention was that closure of a rail line was a matter for parliament and the people, not a decision at the whim of bureaucrats and developers. We were vindicated in taking court action by the fact that the Government then acted in accordance with that judgment and put the matter to the Parliament of NSW.
Following the passage of amended legislation on a casting ballot, after the Appeal Hearing on 15th/16th July, SOR asked the court not to hand down judgment in the Appeal in the light of the dramatic change. Several letters were written to HDC via our legal team to the barristers acting for HDC with the statement that it would be futile to proceed with the Appeal, there being no longer the same dispute between the parties.
The Court decided to hand down a judgment, but invited SOR to apply to have the judgment set aside. Save Our Rail accepted that invitation and have submitted an application to set aside the judgment because in the light of the legislation the Government’s Appeal was “academic” and involved an “advisory” opinion, (which courts are not allowed to give.) If we are successful in setting aside the judgment our community organisation of volunteers and concerned citizens will be free of the crushing Costs Orders sought by the Government against us.
The fact that the government is “after blood” from this grass roots organisation was made clear to us today when Senior Counsel for HDC gratuitously jumped up and declared to the Court that if our Motion was successful (i.e. Costs Orders against us set aside) they will take the matter all the way to the High Court. In other words if we win they will go to extremes to ensure we lose!
This is like the reverse of The Castle, where big companies tried to use the High Court to crush little people. We ask are people really supposed to like and trust Mike Baird when this is how his Government behaves? Is this an example of Christianity?
Our position in taking the matter to the Supreme Court was honourable and to ensure the supremacy of the Parliament and the rule of law. The only purpose in their tricky “devices” was to avoid parliament and review by the people. Justice Adams acknowledged this. Save Our Rail stands by our actions in taking the Government to task when it was clear that the law was being by-passed.
The principle of the right of a community group to take legal action in the context of democracy is at stake. As well SOR is aware that this case can be used as a precedent for the government of the day to close any rail line, sell any piece of public space and override the law at whim or to advantage mates.
We value these principles above any “thirty pieces of silver” and question the government as to what it will gain by taking this further at great public expense.
Joan Dawson, President, Save Our Rail NSW Inc.