Attorney-General’s portfolio

Bronwen Jaggers
Catherine Lorimer
Law and Bills Digest Section

Family law

The government has announced an additional $55.6 million over four years to help separated families and their children.

Almost 37 million dollars ($36.9 million) will be used to establish two initiatives in regional Australia.

The first new programme in regional Australia will enable up to 11 000 children from separating families to participate in decisions that impact on them and help them deal with other issues arising from the breakdown of the parent’s relationship. The Budget press release states: ‘When children are more directly involved, the level of conflict tends to be reduced and parents can achieve more constructive outcomes.’[1]

The second initiative is an educational programme in 28 locations that will assist separated parents whose inability to communicate without conflict is affecting their contact with their children. This programme was piloted as ‘Building Connections’ in regional NSW in 2005-06.  It will help separated parents to focus on the needs of their children.

Fifteen million dollars will assist the Family Court and Federal Magistrates Court to improve access to justice for de facto couples so that property disputes and children’s matters can be heard in one court under a nationally consistent regime. $2.9 million will allow the Family Court of Australia to employ additional Family Consultants and to undertake training in a more child-inclusive approach for relevant matters that are heard by that court. This will provide a stronger focus on children’s needs.

Personal Property Security Reform

Bronwen Jaggers
Law and Bills Digest Section

The Australian Government will provide $113.3 million over five years to harmonise Australia’s personal property security laws in one Commonwealth Act and develop a single national online register of personal property security interests.

The Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) agreed to review personal property security legislation, and the Attorney-General’s department has released a series of discussion papers on the topic. The States and Territories have given in-principle agreement to join the Commonwealth in personal property security reform, subject to further consideration of the financial arrangements for the national system.

Lenders and purchasers entering into transactions involving personal property (all property other than buildings or land) will be able to check cheaply and easily on the Internet whether there is an encumbrance in the property.

The laws regulating securities over personal property are currently contained in more than 70 pieces of State, Territory and Commonwealth legislation.

The measure will be offset by revenue of $62.9 million generated once the new national register is operational.

More information about personal property securities reform is available at www.ag.gov.au/pps.

Refugee/Migration Law

Sue Harris Rimmer
Law and Bills Digest Section

Nauru

Under Table 12: ‘AusAID country programs’ in the Appendix to the DFAT Budget Paper ‘Australia's Overseas Aid Program 2007-08 it states:

'Nauru Additional' funding is provided under a Memorandum of Understanding negotiated on an annual basis between the Australian Government and the Government of Nauru, and Budget year estimates are not for publication ('nfp').

Since 2001 Nauru has been allocated large amounts of funding under a Memorandum of Understanding in return for detention processing arrangements of asylum seekers on its territory.[2]  The Senate Select Committee report into a Certain Maritime Incident questioned whether this money should be properly termed 'aid'.[3]

Funding for IOM in Indonesia

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) will receive $7.7 million for its activities in Indonesia.  Immigration Minister Kevin Andrew's press release Strengthening Australian Borders states that:  'These arrangements provide a safe and humane alternative to unsafe and illegal maritime ventures promoted by people smugglers.' 

This extra funding for IOM in Indonesia has received adverse comment from refugee advocate Marion Le, although she welcomed the overall Budget initiative.

"The IOM simply warehouses people. Does that mean we're going to establish detention centres in Indonesia?" she said. "That should be seriously looked at."[4]

The IOM Indonesia webpage can be accessed here.[5]

Australia and Indonesia will establish a joint taskforce of immigration and police agencies to deter people-smuggling. The bilateral treaty to establish this framework is currently being considered by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties.

Treasury Portfolio

Susan Dudley
Law and Bills Digest Section

There will be increased funding for the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) comprising an extra $24.1 million over four years to assist with recruitment and retention of qualified staff.

The Australian Taxation Office will receive an additional $20 million in 2007-08 to implement the pre-populated tax return.

The Australian Securities and Investment Commission will receive an extra $116.7 million over four years to support new IT infrastructure.

Endnotes


[1].      Attorney-General’s Department, ‘Helping Separated Parents and Their Children’, Media Release, 8 May 2007. Online:

       http://www.ag.gov.au/www/agd/agd.nsf/Page/RWP7B7561B25E7B8082CA2572D40005EC09

[2].         See further Chapter 10, Senate Select Committee report into a Certain Maritime Incident,
23 October 2002, paras 10.24-10.44.

[3].         op cit, paras 11.68 to 11.72.

[4].         David Crawshaw, ‘Funds to help deter people-smuggling’, Courier-Mail, 5 May 2007

[5].             See further Deb Whitmont ‘Interview with Richard Danziger (head of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Indonesia). ABC TV 4 Corners, 15 April 2002.

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