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Thursday, 24 June 1999
Page: 7367


Mr WILLIAMS (Attorney-General) (9:43 AM) —I move:

That the bill be now read a second time.

This bill is part of a package with the Federal Magistrates Bill 1999 , which I have just introduced, which will establish the Federal Magistrates Court, also to be known as the Federal Magistrates Service. The Federal Magistrates (Consequential Amendments) Bill 1999 provides the Federal Magistrates Service with its jurisdiction and makes other minor consequential amendments to a number of acts.

As I mentioned in the second reading speech on the Federal Magistrates Bill 1999 , as the lower level of Commonwealth court, the Federal Magistrates Service will take on a range of less complex matters which are currently heard by the Federal and Family Courts. It is not intended that the Federal Magistrates Service will take away federal work currently performed by state and territory courts.

Its jurisdiction will be concurrent with that of the Family Court and the Federal Court—there will not be any jurisdiction which is solely that of the Federal Magistrates Service. Where more complex matters are filed in the Federal Magistrates Service, there will be provisions for enabling them to be transferred to either the Federal or Family Court, whichever has jurisdiction. Similarly, there will be provisions for transfer from the superior courts to the Federal Magistrates Service of less complex matters within the Federal Magistrates Service's jurisdiction.

Looking first at jurisdiction in matters currently dealt with by the Federal Court, the Federal Magistrates Service will have jurisdiction to hear:

. applications under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977;

. appeals from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal which are transferred by the Federal Court to the Federal Magistrates Service;

. matters arising under the Bankruptcy Act 1966;

. applications under the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986, if and when the Human Rights Amendment Bill 1998 (No. 1) is enacted;

. maters arising under divisions 1 and 1A of part V of the Trade Practices Act 1974, being the consumer protection provisions of that act; and

. matters under section 127 and part XA of the Workplace Relations Act 1996.

The main areas of family law in which the Federal Magistrates Service will have jurisdiction are:

. applications for nullity and dissolution of marriage;

. family law property disputes where the property in dispute is worth less than $300,000, or where the property in dispute is worth more than this and both parties consent to the matter being heard by a Federal Magistrate;

. parenting orders providing for the residence of a child, again, where the parties consent to a Federal Magistrate hearing the matter; and

. parenting orders providing for other matters such as contact, maintenance and specific issues, whether or not the parties consent to a Federal Magistrate hearing the matter.

The Federal Magistrates Service will also have jurisdiction under the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 and the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988.

The establishment of the Federal Magistrates Service will provide a more user-friendly option for parties to the matters within its jurisdiction and will also allow the Federal Court and the Family Court to concentrate on more complex cases.

The establishment of this new, lower level Commonwealth court with concurrent jurisdiction with the Federal Court and Family Court will provide the Australian community with an affordable and accessible option for resolving disputes and will continue the government's commitment to encouraging people, where possible, to resolve disputes themselves and without resort to costly litigation. I commend the bill to the House and I present the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Ms Macklin) adjourned.