Additional Comments by Senator Rex Patrick
The work of the Committee
I thank the Committee and secretariat for its time and effort in
relation to these bills. It is noted that Committee members and participating
members held five contiguous days of hearings in Perth, Adelaide, Sydney,
Brisbane and Townsville.
A Bad Starting Point
I have never observed or sat on an inquiry where there has been such an
overwhelming view amongst the majority of submitters and witnesses that the
proposed legislation will not achieve the legislation’s stated objectives.
Key issues raised:
- The dangers of relying so heavily on a statistically focused report
('Review of efficiency of the operation of the federal courts’ Final Report
April 2018' by PwC) in the consideration of the operation of courts that deal
with extremely complex personal issues.
- The lack of proper consultation with both judicial officers and the
broader legal profession. Wide-ranging consultation should have occurred prior
to the Bills introduction into Parliament, not after the fact.
- Perhaps most importantly, the de-specialisation of the family law courts
system that would result from the legislation.
- The ‘breaking’ of things not broken – the Western Australian appeals
It is acknowledged that the bill had good intentions in seeking a common
entry point and common rules between a new lower tier court and superior court,
although legislative changes were not really needed for either and the idea of
handing sole rule making power to the Chief Justices in perpetuity is
A Committee Working at its Best
Almost all of the concerns raised by the profession have been addressed
by the Committee in this report, at least to some degree.
Centre Alliance awaits the tabling of amendments, anticipating that it
will take into consideration the views of the Committee.
The Family Court system is severely under resourced, and while I
appreciate that the Government is seeking to find efficiencies, it seems to be
ignoring a basic reality that more resources are needed as part of the solution
It is disgraceful that the Government is seeing to lay blame on
hard-working judicial officers of the Family Court for the backlog, when the
Government has refused to allocate the necessary resources to fix the system.
It’s not, as the Chair suggested during the hearing, a case of the Government
needing to find the money.
Billions have been wasted by Government in IT and Defence projects (to
just scratch the surface) and Ministers/Cabinet having no appetite to stand up
to the unjustifiable demands of star ranked Defence officers in their quest to
spend taxpayer’s money on bespoke equipment procurements that ultimately end up
blowing out by billions of dollars and delivering capabilities late that fall
short of the off-the-shelf capabilities originally rejected by them.
Significant resources (but insignificant by Defence’s opulent standards) need
to be directed at fixing the Family Law system.
The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia Bill 2018, Federal
Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Consequential Amendments and
Transitional Provisions) Bill 2018 should not be passed in their current form.
A significant increase in resourcing is required as part of any Family
Senator Rex Patrick
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