Labor Senators' Interim Dissenting Report
For more than forty years the family court system has been endeavouring
to repair broken families. The complexity of the challenges facing families
has increased substantially over that time. There is no doubt that the family
law system is struggling to meet the increasing demand for its services.
The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia Bill 2018 (FCFC bill)
and the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Consequential Amendments
and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2018 (Consequential Amendments bill) propose
to radically change the structure of the courts that deal with family law.
The majority report refers to evidence from many well respected
stakeholders including the Law Council, Law Society of New South Wales, Law
Institute of Victoria, Queensland Law Society, Women’s Legal Services
Australia, Family Court of Western Australia, Attorney-General of Western
Australia and other Western Australian lawyers groups, all of whom are critical
of the reforms proposed in the FCFC bill and the Consequential Amendments bill.
The process that Government Senators on this Committee have pursued in
their determination to push these bills through the Committee process has been
On 23 August 2018 the Senate referred the provisions of the Federal
Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Consequential Amendments and
Transitional Provisions) Bill 2018, Federal Circuit and Family Court of
Australia Bill 2018 to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation
Committee for inquiry and report by 15 April 2019.
Government Senators changed the date for this Committee to report from
the original reporting date of 15th April 2019 to 26th November 2018, with
submissions on the more than 1000 pages that comprised the Bills and
Explanatory Memorandum due in September, just one month after referral to this
Committee. Sensibly, and extraordinarily, the Senate voted to extend the
deadline for submissions to 23rd November.
Government Senators on this Committee refused to adhere to the reporting
date set by the Senate, leaving just three days after submissions were due to
have hearings and produce this report. The Senate then voted again to instruct
the Committee that it could not hold hearings for this inquiry until after
submissions were due, forcing the Committee to hold hearings in December.
The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) is currently undertaking a
landmark inquiry into the family law system. The Commission is due to report
on 15th April 2019. As the majority report notes, a number of stakeholders,
including the President of the Law Council, Mr Arthur Moses SC, argued that
consideration of the bills should occur after the ALRC review.
Reform should be undertaken with great care. It should be well considered
and it should not be rushed. It is wrong that this report is tabled now, and
again shows the disdain with which this government is treating key stakeholders
in the family law system.
Labor Senators dissent from the majority report tabled.
A full dissenting report from Labor Senators will be tabled as soon as
Labor Senators recommend that the Bills not be passed.
Senator Louise Pratt
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