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Fee hikes shortchange court system

Fee hikes shortchange court system

Duncan McConnel Law Council Australia

The increase in filing fees for federal-level courts will raise millions of dollars – but most funds are not being reinvested in the system, the Law Council of Australia has warned.

Federal court-filing fees are set to rise on 1 July with increases expected to raise more than $87 million, according to LCA president Duncan McConnel.

However, Mr McConnel said just $24 million will be put back into the justice system.

“Just two years ago, federal court-filing fees were tripled,” Mr McConnel said. “Now, court users are having even greater taxes imposed on them while little is given back to the justice system.”

Court fees have raised $256 million since 2010, of which $66.2 million was provided to legal assistance services and $60 million in court funding.

Fees are to rise on 1 July in the High Court, Federal Court, Family Court and Federal Circuit Court.

LCA family law section chair Rick O’Brien warned divorcing families would be hit particularly hard, with divorce fees set to increase by $350 to $1,195.

“The changes to family law fees are particularly cynical when there is no option for divorcing parties other than to apply to the court, and even when they reach an agreement there is a fee imposed for consent orders,” Mr O'Brien said. “The fact that the revenue raised is not being fully invested back into the underfunded Family Courts simply makes it worse.”

Mr McConnel said the fee rises were a “heavy blow to access to justice” and called for the changes to be reversed.

“Many people on middle to low incomes may now find it simply too expensive to enforce their rights through the courts, which will undermine the rule of law and the proper administration of justice,” he said.

 

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