Save our Rail head Joan Dawson.SAVE our Rail were trying to “save our parliament”, lawyers for the group have argued.
The group is seeking to have theCourt of Appeal judgement in favour of the governmentset aside,along with an order that the community group pay the government’s legalcosts, thought to be more than $800,000.
Save our Rail’s lawyers have arguedthat last November’s judgementshould not have been givenbecause the government passed legislationto close the line in the meantime.
In a Notice of Motion hearingin Sydney’s Supreme Court on Thursday, Save our Rail’s barrister Shane Prince arguedthe matter had become “moot” before the judgement, and that the group would never have brought the case before the courtif the legislation had been brought to the parliament.
Mr Prince said it was “not correct” that the group’s legal case –launched in late December 2014 –was designed to stopthe closure of the rail line, rather it was to “ensure compliance” with the Transport Administration Act.
“The litigation was to preserve the sovereignty of the parliament, and to ensure compliance with [the Act],” Mr Prince said. He said Save our Railhadbeen“vindicated” by the government’s decision to pass legislation.
Justice Robert Macfarlan asked Mr Prince whether the group’s name –Save Our Rail –undermined that argument, at which one of the government’s lawyers remarked “save our parliament”.
But Mr Prince disagreed.“It was always our position that, had the legislation which has been passed been passed, then proceedings would never have been commenced,” he said.
In Thursday’s hearing Acting Chief Justice Margaret Beazley suggested both parties could “walk away” if they could agree on costs.
“If [the government parties] had come to the court and said don’t worry about it, this was fixed up in some other way, we could have walked away,” she said.
But the government–led by the Transport department and Hunter Development Corporation–want the judgement to stand, and for full costs to be paid.
Save our Rail head Joan Dawson told the Newcastle Herald before the hearing that the group’s lawyershad made a number of attempts to settle the matter of costs.
After a two-hour hearing on ThursdayJustice Beazley reserved judgement for a later date.
A key issue was whether the court had been given advice prior that the legislation had made the issue “moot” prior to the judgement.
Both parties disagreed about the result of an email trail that discussed informing the court about the legislation, butJustice Beazleysuggestedthe court had not been given sufficient adviceabout its impact prior to the judgement.
“I think there was a single letter to the court saying the Act had been passed [there was] no suggestion as to what the court ought to do, or not to do,” she said.
Mr Prince arguedthat he had asked the court not to deliverthe judgement before the hearing was closed, but Acting Chief Justice Beazley said that was “another matter”.
“This case had gone right through…the parties had incurred every aspect of cost by the time the legislation was passed,” she said.