Rushed court merger bills would short-change justice system – Law Council

The Senate, which has already cut the reporting deadline, said submissions on the bills will only be accepted until 14 September

Rushed court merger bills would short-change justice system – Law Council

A deeply concerned Law Council of Australia has urged the government to not short-change the country’s justice system by rushing the pending court merger bills.

“Australia's family court system today is under immense pressure, but rushing through changes without proper consultation is not the answer,” said Morry Bailes, Law Council president. “Three weeks for stakeholders and the community to review such a significant overhaul is insufficient and extremely worrying.”

Two bills were introduced on Thursday to the lower house that, if passed, will merge the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and the Family Court of Australia into the new Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.

On the same day, the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs committee severely cut the reporting deadline on the bills from 15 April 2019 to 26 November this year. The committee also announced that submissions on the bills will be accepted until only 14 September, leaving just three weeks open for the public to comment.

The merger of the two courts will be one of the biggest changes to the country’s justice system in decades, the Law Council said.

“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,” Bailes said.

The Law Council president slammed bills for not providing a solution to severe funding problems. He also explained why a 15 April deadline can benefit how the bills are considered by the Parliament.

“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,” he said.

“Last week the Senate recognised the major impact the proposed merger could have on all Australians’ access to justice when it voted for a mid-April reporting deadline. 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. The final report is due on 31 March 2019,” Bailes said. “To significantly curtail this deadline is of great concern. We urge the government to reconsider this timeline immediately.”

 

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