Cross-examination reform welcome, but where's the money?

The Turnbull Government has taken three years to accept the Productivity Commission’s 2014 recommendation to stop alleged domestic violence perpetrators from personally cross-examining their victims, after arguing for more than a year the changes were not necessary.

MARK DREYFUS QC MP

SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL

SHADOW MINISTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY

MEMBER FOR ISAACS

 

TERRI BUTLER MP

SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR PREVENTING FAMILY VIOLENCE

SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR UNIVERSITIES

SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR EQUALITY

MEMBER FOR GRIFFITH

 

CROSS-EXAMINATION REFORM WELCOME BUT WHERE’S THE MONEY? 

The Turnbull Government has taken three years to accept the Productivity Commission’s 2014 recommendation to stop alleged domestic violence perpetrators from personally cross-examining their victims, after arguing for more than a year the changes were not necessary.

While yesterday’s announcement that the government will “soon release” proposed amendments is welcome, it is inadequate. Labor is extremely concerned that it is not accompanied by any funding to support the measure.

The government must immediately release the proposed amendments to the Family Law Act 1975. Further the government must explain how parties refused the right to personally cross-examine will be able to obtain legal representation, so that they are not denied natural justice.

Let’s be clear – you cannot implement this measure without additional funding for Legal Aid lawyers, who would need to be ordered by the courts to assist unrepresented litigants.

There is no announcement in last night’s budget, of funding for legal representation, for parties refused the right to personally cross-examine.

Does the Turnbull government expect existing legal assistance services who are just managing to stay afloat – such as Community Legal Centres, Legal Aid, and the pilot domestic violence units announced in late 2015 - to absorb the cost of providing the legal representation that would be needed? If the answer is yes, the government should come clean and say so.

Before the election, and again in November 2016 on White Ribbon Day, Labor committed to reforming cross-examination, so that victims would not be subjected to hostile questioning by the alleged perpetrator. We committed $43.2 million for additional legal aid funding to ensure that the courts would be able to direct that parties be legally represented, in order to cross-examine the other.

This is an important measure to prevent victims and survivors being re-traumatised through the court system, while at the same time affording natural justice.

WEDNESDAY, 10 MAY 2017