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Wednesday, 7 February 2007
Page: 1


Mr RUDDOCK (Attorney-General) (9:01 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill amends the Family Law Act 1975 to validate retrospectively the imposition of an unauthorised filing fee for divorce matters in Western Australia.

In July 2005, the filing fee in the Federal Magistrates Court for divorce applications under the Family Law Act was increased from $288 to $334. The fee in the Federal Magistrates Court for divorce applications applies to all divorce applications throughout Australia, except Western Australia. In 1976, under section 41 of the Family Law Act, Western Australia established the only state family court in Australia—the Family Court of Western Australia.

The filing fee for a divorce order in the Family Court of Western Australia is set by regulations made under the Family Law Act. Subregulation 11(1A) of the Family Law Regulations 1984 prescribes the filing fee for a divorce order in the Family Court of Western Australia, whereas the equivalent fee in the Federal Magistrates Court is set by the Federal Magistrates Regulations 2000.

To ensure consistency in the treatment of applicants across Australia, the filing fee for a divorce order in the Family Court of Western Australia matches the equivalent Federal Magistrates Court fee. However, due to an oversight, when the filing fee for a divorce application in the Federal Magistrates Court was increased in July 2005, a corresponding amendment to subregulation 11(1A) of the Family Law Regulations to increase the fee in the Family Court of Western Australia was not made.

The Family Court of Western Australia assumed the necessary amendment to the Family Law Regulations had been made and mistakenly began to charge the increased fee. It raised the fee from $334 to $352 on 1 July 2006 when the Federal Magistrates Court fee was subject to a routine biennial increase.

Steps were taken to rectify the oversight as soon as it was realised. As of 9 October 2006, subregulation 11(1A) was amended to bring the divorce fee in Western Australia into line with the rest of Australia.

It has always been the government’s intention to have a divorce fee which is consistent throughout Australia, and this was in fact the case from 1 July 2006 until 9 October 2006. During that period, the Family Court of Western Australia charged applicants the correct fees but did so without legal authority. The purpose of the present bill is to validate the fees which were charged during that period.

This is a straightforward, technical amendment to correct an honest mistake, and one which will ensure equality of treatment for all Australians who paid this fee during the period in question.

I commend this bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.