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AG slates federal courts shakeup

AG slates federal courts shakeup

The Federal Government has announced it will establish a new federal court - the Military Court of Australia - as part of a restructure of the Australian federal court system. Announced this…

The Federal Government has announced it will establish a new federal court - the Military Court of Australia - as part of a restructure of the Australian federal court system.

Announced this week by Attorney General Robert McClelland and Minister for Defence Senator John Faulkner, the restructure will also see the Government shift the role of the Federal Magistrates Court and the Family Court.

Established under Chapter III of the Constitution, the new military court will replace the interim measures put in place following the High Court's decision in Lane v Morrison which invalidated the Australian Military Court established by the previous Government.

"Judicial officers appointed to the new Military Court of Australia will have the same independence and constitutional protections that apply in other federal courts," McClelland said.

All judicial officers appointed to the new court must have either past military experience or a familiarity with the services, to ensure the court has the necessary understanding of the requirements and critical nature of military discipline. However, they may not be serving ADF members nor members of the Reserves.

"This new specialist court will deliver a system of military justice for [Australian Defence Force] members that combines the necessary independence and constitutional protections for the judiciary, with an understanding of the vital importance of military discipline in the operation of our armed forces," said Senator Faulkner.

"Timely and fair trials in the new court will enhance military justice and promote discipline in the ADF, which in turn will contribute to improved morale and operational effectiveness," Faulkner said.

The Attorney General announced the Federal Magistrates Court will remain and existing judges of the Federal Court and the Federal Magistrates Courts with the requisite background may be offered dual commissions to the new military court.

"The new Military Court of Australia will form part of a restructured federal court system in which the Federal Magistrates Court will continue to hear general federal law matters," McClelland said.

McClelland added that the restructure will also see a lower tier of the Family Court established and commissions offered to Federal Magistrates who undertake mainly family law work.

"This new structure will achieve a more integrated and efficient system in order to efficiently deliver legal and justice services to both the civilian and defence community," McClelland said.

The Government will continue its consultations with the courts and the Law Council of Australia in finalising the restructure.

Legislation to establish the new Military Court will be introduced this year and is expected to commence operation in late 2011.

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