Government snubs Senate on Family Court consultation

Late on Thursday night, under the cover of leadership chaos, government members of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee did an astonishing thing - they voted to overrule the democratic will of the Senate.

THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP
SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL
SHADOW MINISTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
 
GOVERNMENT SNUBS SENATE ON FAMILY COURT CONSULTATION
 

Late on Thursday night, under the cover of leadership chaos, government members of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee did an astonishing thing - they voted to overrule the democratic will of the Senate.
 
Earlier that day, Labor Senators joined with the Centre Alliance, Senator Derryn Hinch, Senator Tim Storer and Greens Senators in a majority vote to force the government to conduct adequate consultation for its family court reforms and extend the reporting date for a legislative inquiry until next year. This would not just allow for a thorough committee process, but also for the Australian Law Reform Commission’s landmark report into the family law system to be considered alongside the government’s proposals.
 
This vote was a strong message from the Senate that the government had utterly failed to do its job in talking to the people who will be most affected by the sweeping changes that are proposed to the structure of the courts. The lack of consultation has led to anger from many stakeholders, compounded by the government’s high-handed dismissal of their concerns.
 
But government members of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs committee overturned that vote in a meeting on Thursday night. In doing so, they have given interested parties just three weeks to make submissions on a bill nearly 200 pages long, which represents the biggest change to the Family Court since the Whitlam government created it in 1975.
 
The government’s timetable will give no time for the Committee to travel to regional communites to hear how they may be affected by the changes that are proposed, and it will likely limit the hearing process to just the eastern states. This is unacceptable.
 
With this astonishing act, the government have not just repudiated the views of Labor, but also important crossbenchers.
 
A change like this is too important to rush through. Vulnerable families and children in the court system need change - but they need change that is done properly and done right. Rushing a process like this is beyond comprehension.
 
Labor calls on the government to reverse this decision and extend the reporting date once more.
 
MONDAY, 27 AUGUST 2018