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Monday, 18 October 1999
Page: 11802

Mr FITZGIBBON (10:09 PM) —It is a delight to unexpectedly have an opportunity to speak on the Federal Magistrates Bill 1999 and the Federal Magistrates (Consequential Amendments) Bill 1999 . I note that my colleague the member for Barton, the shadow Attorney-General, has moved an amendment and expressed a number of concerns about the bills. I also note, having heard a number of the contributions from both sides of the House, that there is a degree of bipartisanship on issues surrounding family law, and so there should be. We as members of this House all have a constant procession of constituents visiting our offices expressing concern about our system of family law in this country and sharing with us, as members, their experiences with respect to family law matters—in particular, child support matters. It is an area of legislation or public policy where we should all be combining to address the anomalies that exist and the difficulties that our system of family law presents in this country.

I do not profess to be an expert on the particular matter before the House but, as I said, it is good to see members expressing shared concerns about the inadequacies of our system and about the very great strain it places upon both live families and `un-live' families—for want of a better term. I repeat the amendment the shadow minister has moved:

That all words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

"whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading the House:

(1) believes that the Federal Magistrates Service proposed in the Bill is unlikely to reduce the delays currently being experienced in the Family Court unless significant additional resources are provided;

(2) calls upon the Government to work with the Family Court of Australia to address the problems identified in the discussion paper entitled Review of the Federal Civil Justice System released by the Australian Law Reform Commission; and

(3) calls for an inquiry by the House of Representatives Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee into the need to establish standard procedures and case management techniques for Court administration, relying on best practice models".

I see that the honourable member for Chifley has joined the members in the House and I am delighted to see him do so, for many reasons—not the least of which being that, as the Chairman of the Joint Select Committee on Certain Family Law Matters, he has gained for himself a great insight into all of these issues, as have been addressed by earlier speakers. Certainly he has a great deal of expertise in this area and, more than any other person in this chamber, has worked relentlessly to address the many anomalies that exist in the system and the many problems that flow from them. I recommend the shadow Attorney-General's amendment to the House.