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Thursday, 21 November 1996
Page: 7362

(Question No. 765)

Mr Price asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 18 September 1996:

(1) Does the Parliament appropriate money for the running of the Family Court of Australia; if so, what sums are appropriated for specific purposes of the Court.

(2) Are there legislative requirements for money to be spent on specific purposes; if so, what are they; if not, why not.

(3) Are there differences between the responsibility and accountability of executive Departments for their expenditure and the Family Court for its expenditure, in particular its administrative expenditure.

(4) Is he or his department developing procedures to ensure that moneys appropriated to the Court for specific programs are spent on those programs; if so, will the procedures be legally binding.

(5) Were the moneys appropriated for the expanded mediation and counselling services in 1995-96 underspent by 82 per cent and 59 per cent, respectively; if so, on how many occasions has similar underexpenditure occurred within federal courts.

Mr Williams —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) Yes. The Portfolio Budget Statements 1996-97 for the Attorney-General's Portfolio—Budget Related Paper No.1.1—lists the following budget estimates for program and running costs for Sub-program 4.2, the Family Court of Australia, for the current financial year:

Running Costs—$104,962,000

Other Program Costs—$735,000

Total Appropriations—$105,697,000

Less Adjustments (for revenue)—$709,000

Total Outlays—$104,988,000

(2) Yes. Chapter IV of the Constitution and Part V of the Audit Act 1901 require that funds be spent for the purposes for which the funds are appropriated. The funds appropriated for Sub-program 4.2 are for all aspects of the administration of justice and the provision of services by the Family Court of Australia.

(3) Yes. While section 38A of the Family Law Act 1975 vests management responsibility for the administrative affairs of the Court in the Chief Justice, subsection 38A(4) of the Act prohibits the Chief Justice from entering into a contract for a sum exceeding $250,000 without the approval of the Attorney-General or acquiring an interest or right in land that would constitute an interest or right in land for the purposes of the Land Acquisitions Act 1989.

(4) No. Direct responsibility for the management of the Family Court, including management of its financial affairs, is vested, under section 38A of the Family Law Act 1975, in the Chief Justice of the Family Court.

(5) Yes. The figures of 82 per cent and 59 per cent are cited in Australian National Audit Office Report No. 4 1996-97, Use of Justice Statement Funds and Financial Position, Family Court of Australia. The Report also states that `. . . the Court had the legal discretion to allocate these funds for the purposes the Court saw fit. . . '.

The federal courts and tribunals each receive a global budget allocation, and have done since they became self-administering. The federal courts and tribunals manage their priorities within their overall funding levels, both within a financial year and across financial years.