Government trips up on Family Court inquiry

The government’s attempt to ram its family court bills through the Parliament with inadequate consultation has been stymied – not by Labor, but by the rules of the Senate.

THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP
SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL
SHADOW MINISTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
 
GOVERNMENT TRIPS UP ON FAMILY COURT INQUIRY
 

The government’s attempt to ram its family court bills through the Parliament with inadequate consultation has been stymied – not by Labor, but by the rules of the Senate.
 
Last week’s attempt by the government to defy the will of the Senate, and shorten the reporting date of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee into the bills, has provoked anger amongst many stakeholders.
 
The Senate voted for an 15 April 2019 reporting date for important reasons – to allow time for thorough consultation which has not happened to date, and so that the Australian Law Reform Commission’s review of the family law system can be taken into account.
 
The government appears to have assumed its committee resolution to shorten the reporting date to November 2018 would allow the bills to be passed shortly thereafter.
 
Advice from the Deputy Clerk of the Senate indicates that is not the case, stating “the bills would continue to be unavailable for the Senate's consideration until the reporting date set by the Senate.”
 
The government must now acknowledge and respect the will of the Senate, and restore the original reporting date set by the upper house. As the bill cannot be put to the Senate for debate until April next year, enforcing a reporting date in November this year would be utterly nonsensical.
 
It’s time for the government to face reality, admit it got this wrong, and listen to those with everyday experience of the family law system who want to have their say.
 
THURSDAY, 30 AUGUST 2018