SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
THURSDAY, 18 FEBRUARY 2021
SUBJECT: Family Court abolition; Facebook decision.
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: This is a terrible day for all those thousands and thousands of Australians who are affected by the decisions of the Family Court of Australia, who have to use the services of the Family Court of Australia. Because last night, the Government passed through the Senate legislation to abolish the independent, expert Family Court that has served Australians now for over 40 years.
It's a terrible decision, which goes against the advice of more than 150 people and organisations who work in the Family Court of Australia, who have told the Government for years now that this is a terrible proposal. The Government has ignored the advice of women's legal services, it's ignored the advice of community legal centres, it's ignored the advice of family violence experts. And the Government must know, if it had listened at all to their advice, that this decision to abolish the expert standalone Family Court will not do anything for those thousands of vulnerable Australians.
The Government has not waited for the current inquiry of the Joint Select Committee of this Parliament into the family law system to go ahead with this terrible legislation. The Government has ignored the recommendations of the inquiry that it set up by the Australian Law Reform Commission, which conducted the largest ever review of the Family Law Act and the family law system in Australia. We haven't even had a response from the part time Attorney-General to that report of the Law Reform Commission.
Worst of all, the Government has proceeded as if it were not the Government of Australia. It's provided additional resources to one state. Resources which it should be providing on an increased level to every state and territory of Australia. This is no way to proceed. It's an extraordinarily bad decision. It's a very sad day for Australia.
The last thing I'd say about this is that great work is being done every day by judges and registrars and everyone connected with the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. Those judges and court personnel have been working now for a long time to set up a single point of entry. They've been working for a long time to get common rules for the two courts. Those steps did not require legislation. And I just note that because no doubt if there are some improvements in the shocking delays that are currently being experienced throughout the family law system the Government will probably point to its legislation. But it won't be that at all. It will be the hard work of the judges and staff at the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia who've been working on these steps that did not require legislation.
JOURNALIST: So it could undermine the specialisation of judges and perversely lead to worse outcomes, particularly for women? But what can you do other than express outrage?
DREYFUS: The Government shouldn't have proceeded in the face of absolute condemnation from retired Chief Justices of the Family Court, from retired judges of the Family Court, from just about every lawyer that has ever worked in the family law system, from counsellors who work in the system. Their advice was do not do this, that Australians will not be well served by the effective abolition of the independent, expert Family Court of Australia. And the Government needs to look to do other things. The fact that it's been prepared, that this government is prepared to give additional judges and additional registrars to one state, might tell you something.
JOURNALIST: Are you also concerned about the impact of the so-called media bargaining code given Facebook's announcement that it's going to effectively restrict Australians’ access to news?
DREYFUS: The Government needs to tell us what's going on here with this bargaining code. We've got Mr Frydenberg out there patting himself on the back for some deals that Google has done with some media organisations. But in the meantime, Facebook is going to dramatically alter the feed that Australians get and restrict the flow of news to Australians, the flow of real public interest journalism and real news to Australians on Facebook. So, the question is one for the Government to answer. Instead of patting yourselves on the back tell Australians what's going on with Facebook. It's something that 18 or so million Australians are affected by.