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Wednesday, 19 October 1983
Page: 1977


Mr RUDDOCK(8.46) —I move:

Clause 68, page 51, before paragraph (1) (a), insert the following paragraphs:

''(aa) by inserting in sub-section (2) 'magistrates,' after 'judges,';

''(ab) by inserting in sub-section (2)', Senators, Members of the House of Representatives' after 'organizations';''.

This amendment seeks to add to those eligible for membership of the Family Law Council senators, members of the House of Representatives and magistrates. The clause details the classes of people eligible to be members of the Council. I have indicated previously the extent to which I believe the Parliament ought to be interested in family law. As the family is important, it is important that we play a positive role in the development of monitoring of a law of this sort. One way in which that can be done is by members of the Parliament having membership of the Family Law Council. I understand that membership by parliamentarians was proposed in the original legislation and that some members of the Senate were actually invited to be members of the Family Law Council. Then the previous Government decided that it would not proceed to have parliamentary representation on the Council. I regret in a sense that the new Government, having looked at these matters again, has persisted with that view. I know that the Attorney-General (Senator Evans) says that he can still appoint a parliamentarian and a magistrate if he wants to. Those classes of people ought to be eligible for specific membership. I persist with this amendment because I regard it as important.

At the moment members of the Parliament have representation on the Advisory Council of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the Australian Council for Union Training, the Council of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, the Council of the Australian National University, the Council of the National Library of Australia and the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Trust. Having regard to those organisations on which it is deemed appropriate that the Parliament be represented, there is no way in which one can sustain an argument that parliamentarians ought not to be on the Family Law Council. It would be beneficial for that organisation. It is important, in view of the importance we attach to the family, that parliamentarians be represented.

I have today expressed concern about the way in which these matters have been handled, initially by the former Government but later by this Government. I have expressed concern that the Joint Select Committee on the Family Law Act was requested to review reports of the Family Law Council. Ultimately, before the Parliament was asked to consider legislation, our parliamentary review was referred to the people who were being reviewed for them to comment. It appears that the comments of those being reviewed are all too frequently the views being accepted. I do not regard that as satisfactory. I think the Parliament ought to be represented on that body.

A magistrate was recently a member of the Council. I understand one is not now on the Council. Magistrates have a very important role to play in the administration of many aspects of family law, particularly in relation to children and maintenance. It is important that their experience be available and particularly that the magistrates with the experience of working in the summary jurisdiction courts be in a position to be able to contribute to reform of law. I think the Family Law Council is the appropriate medium in which they would be able to contribute. These amendments are important and I would like to think that the Government would review its position in relation to this matter.