Mark Dreyfus MP

Member for Isaacs
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Family Court Abolition Will Hurt Families And Children

20 November 2020

Labor Senators have today rejected outright the Morrison Government’s radical proposal to effectively abolish the Family Court as a destructive and damaging move which will put Australian families at greater risk in their time of greatest need.

MARK DREYFUS
SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL
SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
 


FAMILY COURT ABOLITION WILL HARM FAMILIES AND CHILDREN
 

Labor Senators have today rejected outright the Morrison Government’s radical proposal to effectively abolish the Family Court as a destructive and damaging move which will put Australian families at greater risk in their time of greatest need.
 
The Government’s proposed abolition of the Family Court as a stand-alone specialist family court is friendless.
 
As Labor Senators note, “Over the last two years, this Committee has received dozens and dozens of compelling and detailed submissions from family law experts outlining the harm that the proposed merger would do to vulnerable children and families. By contrast, the Committee has not received any evidence – and certainly no persuasive evidence – that these bills would address any of the many problems plaguing the family law system”.
 
In fact, the Government’s deeply flawed proposal is based on nothing more than the widely-disputed findings of a six-week desktop review by two accountants from PricewaterhouseCoopers.
 
Not even that PwC review explicitly endorsed the Government’s proposal.
 
The existence of a stand-alone specialist Family Court is crucial to the well-being of many thousands of Australians, especially young children. 
 
It is too important to be dealt with in such a chaotic and arrogant fashion.
 
Sadly, Government Senators on the Senate’s Legal & Constitutional Affairs Committee inquiry decided to ignore the overwhelming evidence against the Morrison Government’s misconceived proposal.
 
This included evidence from the Law Council of Australia that  “these bills would put at greater risk those Australians in need of specialist family law assistance to resolve the most intractable of disputes” and “dismantle a world-leading institution, undermining specialisation in the system, to the detriment of children and families at their most vulnerable”.
 
Labor acknowledges there are significant problems with the current family law system, which have led to unacceptable delays for vulnerable families and – particularly – children.
 
There are many factors that have contributed to this current state of affairs. They include the Liberal Government’s failure over the past seven years to appoint judges in a timely manner, the Government’s abject failure to increase funding for court-related and legal assistance services in line with ever-increasing demand, and inefficiencies in the family law system.
 
The Government has not even bothered to respond to the comprehensive March 2019 report on the family law system by the Australian Law Reform Commission.
 
As Labor Senators found, “instead of working to fix the family law system, the Government remains determined to restructure the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court in a way that will make a bad situation worse for Australian families, including vulnerable children”.
 
The Morrison Government should immediately abandon these bills and instead take the necessary steps to address the genuine needs of Australian families.

FRIDAY, 20 NOVEMBER 2020