3 weeks too short to consider court merger, LCA says

By Grace Ormsby|28 August 2018

The Law Council of Australia has expressed a great concern for the recent and significant curtailing of the three-week period allocated for public scrutiny of the recently introduced court merger bills.

The bills will merge the current Federal Circuit Court of Australia and the Family Court of Australia into the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.

The day the bills were introduced into the lower house, the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee reduced the reporting deadline from 15 April 2019 to 26 November of this year. The submission closing date was scheduled for 14 September.

Law Council of Australia president Morry Bailes said the organisation already held “significant concerns” about the proposed merger. A three-week deadline to scrutinize bills “would short-change a court system already at breaking point.”

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Mr Bailes said “rushing through changes without proper consultation is not the answer” for a family court system that is under “immense pressure.”

Chronic underfunding over the last decade has led to a court system that struggles to meet community needs, he said.

“The measures provide no extra funding for the chronically under-resourced court system or associated support services, which allow the court system to deal with cases more quickly.

“Three weeks for stakeholders and the community to review such a significant overhaul is insufficient and extremely worrying.

“We owe it to the people caught-up in the family law system not to give the most significant court changes since 1975 a mere cursory glance, or a simple tick-and-flick,” he said.

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The Senate had recognised the major impact the proposed merger could have on Australians’ access to justice, voting for reporting deadline in April next year.

“A reporting deadline in mid-April 2019 would allow the Senate to consider the recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Family Law Review,” Mr Bailes said.

The final report is due on 31 March 2019.

3 weeks too short to consider court merger, LCA says
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