ABC 702 Sydney interview

SUBJECT/S: Parental Management Hearings








FRIDAY, 12 MAY 2017


SUBJECT/S: Parental Management Hearings


WENDY HARMER, HOST: Hello there Mark welcome to the program.

MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Morning Wendy thank you for having me on.

HARMER: Now that all sounded perfectly reasonable to me, so what do you think about this new idea, this overhaul?

DREYFUS: Well I tuned into listen because there’s been almost no detail of what would be a radical change to family law disputes. It’s extraordinary that the Attorney-General is not prepared to come on and has left it to an academic…

HARMER: Well to be fair you know he was looking to come on today but will be coming on next week.

DREYFUS: Well I’m listening to Patrick Parkinson who appears to have given a private suggestion with another lawyer to the government, which has now outsourced its policy to them. So perhaps we should be listening to Patrick Parkinson as to what he says is going to happen and what the government is going to do, but that’s pretty unusual. It’s not an answer to the problems with the Family Court. We’re told that it’s a pilot that’s going to happen in Parramatta within a year. We’ve got a national problem here Wendy. We’ve got two to three years’ delay in resolution of contested matters in the Family Court. The Attorney-General is failing to appoint judges to vacant positions to the Family and Federal Circuit Courts. There’s five vacant positions for judges around the country. And obviously that’s contributing to the delay. He needs to get on and fill those five vacancies.  He needs to be considering whether there is a need for more judges, he needs to be considering whether there is a need for more registrars. Of course it’s welcome that some additional family consultants, that money has been provided for that – but $12.7 million on something that has no details, has not been consulted on, the courts haven’t been asked about this. According to Patrick Parkinson, the representative of the government now, he’s briefed the Chief Justice of the Family Court and briefed the Chief Justice of the Federal Circuit Court but that’s not consultation and you can’t consult someone until you have a proposal and it’s clear that there’s absolutely no detail, it’s a rushed proposal. When they’ve got the detail, when we’ve got the legislation, we’ll be able to have some consultation.

HARMER: But what about in principle though mark, I mean Patrick Parkinson was talking there, we all know how it works, people are running down their family resources using lawyers to battle it out, surely this is a good alternative?

DREYFUS: Those examples of people running down family resources with lawyers are few and far between. Many family law disputes are very difficult disputes. One in five family law matters now involve contested allegations of domestic violence, another smaller proportion but still a substantial number involve awful allegations of abuse of the children. These are determinations which need to be made by judges. They become intractable after there has been attempts at mediation, we have put tremendous efforts in recent years into mediating in family disputes and that’s of course a consensual process. And very very many family disputes are resolved through mediation. Particularly those disputes which involve just property and not children. But there remain a large proportion of family law disputes that require a determination. And those determinations I think the community expects would be made by and large by a judge.


DREYFUS: There’s a constitutional issue here which Patrick Parkinson briefly hinted at, that will need to be resolved and we won’t know what the answer to that is until we’ve seen the legislation. But most importantly, saying you’ll have a pilot in Parramatta is not an answer to a nationwide problem which is afflicting people in family disputes right now. Two to three years delay, and growing. And we need to hear solutions from the government on how to fix the system as it is, and how to make the system work better. By all means let’s have some experimental or innovative changes to the family court system but in the meantime we’ve got to deal with crushing backlogs which are affecting the work.

HARMER: So you are not impressed with the Attorney-General’s effort on this one.

DREYFUS: No. Again, it’s a half-hearted attempt which is rushed, with no detail, Patrick Parkinson is sent out to describe it rather than the government. And it’s not an answer to a pressing national problem.

HARMER: Alright well thanks very much for joining us Mark.

DREYFUS: Thanks very much for having me.