Chapter 1 Courts and Tribunals Legislation Amendment (Administration) Bill
The Courts and Tribunals Legislation Amendment (Administration)
Bill 2012 (hereafter referred to as the Bill) was introduced into the
House of Representatives on 31 October 2012.
On 1 November 2012 the House of Representatives Selection Committee
referred the Bill to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social
Policy and Legal Affairs for inquiry and report.
Scope of the Bill
The Bill will amend:
- the Native Title
Act 1993 (Native Title Act):
facilitate the transfer of the National Native Title Tribunal’s (NNTT) appropriations,
staff and some of its administrative functions to the Federal Court of
reflect that the NNTT is no longer a statutory agency for the purposes of the Financial
Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA Act)
- the Family Law Act
1975 and the Federal Magistrates Act 1999 to facilitate the merger
of the administrative functions of the Family Court of Australia and the Federal
Magistrates Court of Australia.
Introducing the Bill to the House of Representatives, the Hon Nicola
Roxon MP, the then Attorney‑General, advised that in addition to
implementing reforms to ‘improve the effectiveness and efficiency’ of the
affected courts and tribunals, the Bill was part of the Government’s wider
courts reform package. 
Attorney-General Roxon highlighted an additional $38 million of funding
across the forward estimates as a means of maintaining services, particularly
for regional and disadvantaged parties, and suggested that the proposed
amendments to administration would provide savings and better alignment and
allocation of functions.
Previous inquiries and consultation
The Bill implements several recommendations of the Strategic Review
of Small and Medium Agencies in the Attorney-General’s Portfolio, conducted
by Mr Stephen Skehill (the Skehill Review).
The recommendations contained in Chapter 6 of the Skehill Review suggest
increased efficiencies through reducing duplication and improving
administration between the NNTT and the Federal Court.
The Skehill Review examined ways to improve the value for money for the
Government in terms of the discharge of the functions of federal courts, other
than the High Court of Australia, including the option to legislatively support
a merger of the administration of the Family Court and the Federal Magistrates
On 28 November 2012 the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights
tabled its Seventh Report of 2012 on Bills and other legislative instruments. The
report included the Human Rights Committee’s views on the Bill, and a request
to the then Attorney-General, the Hon Nicola Roxon MP, to provide advice on
whether the proposed changes ‘could reduce the access individuals currently have
to the National Native Title Tribunal’.
Attorney-General Roxon’s response negating the concerns was tabled in
the Human Rights Committee’s First Report of 2013. The response reiterated that
the ‘amendments contained in the bill are of a minor and technical nature,
impacting on the Court’s and Tribunal’s internal administrative practices’.
Concurrent Senate inquiry
On 1 November 2012 the Senate referred the provisions of the Bill to the
Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs for inquiry and
report. The Senate Committee issued a call for submissions by 17 December 2012 and
subsequently received 10 submissions from a range of organisations across
A public hearing was conducted on 31 January 2013.The Senate Committee
has indicated it will report on the Bill on 25 February 2013. Relevant
documents and additional information can be accessed on the Senate Committee’s
Conduct and scope of this inquiry
In referring the Bill, the House of Representatives Selection Committee
provided the three reasons for referral/principal issues for consideration. The
Selection Committee asked the Social Policy and Legal Affairs Committee to
- ‘the means by which the
proposed efficiencies will be achieved’ through the passage of the Bill. The
Explanatory Memorandum for the Bill states that ‘the reforms that this Bill
implements will achieve $4.75 million in savings each year from 2012-13
over the four‑year forward estimates, for a total saving of $19 million’.
These savings were announced in the 2012-13 Budget measure National Native
Title Tribunal – Increased Efficiencies.
- possible effects on
the administration of the courts
- whether the proposed
amendments will improve access to justice. Improvements to access to justice
are not the purpose of this Bill. However, it is important to ensure that the
proposed changes do not impede access to justice.
The Committee held a public hearing on 30 November 2012.
A list of submissions in relation to the hearing is at Appendix A and a list of
witnesses that appeared before the Committee is at Appendix B.
On several occasions, Senate and House committees have been referred
concurrent inquiries. As noted above, the provisions of this Bill have been
referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.
As far as possible, this Committee has endeavoured not to duplicate
those areas it anticipates the Senate will consider in detail, and not to
burden stakeholders with multiple requests for submissions. Therefore, in some
instances the Committee refers to the submissions received by the Senate
Structure of the report
Chapter 2 of the report examines the proposed changes to the Native
Title Act, which transfers the NNTT’s native title claims mediation functions
and resources to the Federal Court, and consolidates the corporate services of
the two agencies.
Chapter 3 of the report examines the proposed changes to the Family Law
Act 1975 and the Federal Magistrates Act 1999, which facilitate
the merger of the administrative functions of the Family Court of Australia and
the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia.
Chapter 4 of the report provides discussion on the common issues across
the courts and tribunal affected, summarises the Committee’s comments on the
Bill and provides recommendations.