Family Court: show us the evidence

Labor welcomes the government’s acknowledgement of the crisis in the family court system, and the pain it is causing families caught up in it.

MARK DREYFUS QC MP

SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL

SHADOW MINISTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY

MEMBER FOR ISAACS

 

FAMILY COURT: SHOW US THE EVIDENCE

 

Labor welcomes the government’s acknowledgement of the crisis in the family court system, and the pain it is causing families caught up in it.

 

This situation has been going for far too long, and has worsened on the government’s watch.

 

Any change aimed at improving the experience of families when they are going through their toughest time must be given worthy consideration, and Labor will examine closely the government’s legislation when it is presented.

 

However, the government has some explaining to do as to why it believes the effective abolition of the Family Court is the solution to the current crisis. It claims 8,000 more family law matters will be cleared every year – nearly 40 per cent of the current backlog. On what basis does it make this claim?

 

There is little detail as to how the “single point of entry” to the merged Federal Circuit Court and Family Court will work. Serious concerns have also been raised at the removal of the Appeals Division of the Family Court – which means that the toughest and most complex family law cases will no longer be heard by specialists.

 

Moreover, the government has not acknowledged several other factors that have contributed to the current backlogs in the court system – including judicial vacancies not filled for months, a funding crisis in legal assistance services and an increase in unrepresented litigants. Any solution to this crisis will not be complete if these factors are not addressed.

 

The government’s proposal also does not address recommendations made by former Chief Justice of the Family Court Diana Bryant for a funding injection to provide for an increased number of registrars and family consultants, so that families can avoid having to go to court in the first place.

 

Finally, there has been some suggestion in recent media reporting, in the form of unattributed statements, that the current backlog is partly caused by judges not working hard enough, or allowing appeal judgments to be coloured by personal opinion. This is offensive to the hard-working judges of the Family Court, who do a very difficult job. It is time for such statements to stop.

 

WEDNESDAY, 30 MAY 2018