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Wednesday, 6 February 2013
Page: 329


Mr KEENAN (Stirling) (12:49): This bill makes amendments consequent to the passage of legislation last year to change the name of the Federal Magistrates Court to the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, and the title of federal magistrate to judge. The bill makes amendments to Commonwealth legislation to reflect the new name of the court and title of federal magistrates. It updates relevant references and legislation consistent with the new name of the court and title of federal magistrate as judge or chief judge as the case may be. The bill also makes bulk amendments to substitute Federal Circuit Court or Federal Circuit Court of Australia for Federal Magistrates Court wherever it appears in the act listed in schedule 2. It also makes contingent amendments to a number of bills which are currently before parliament that make reference to the Federal Magistrates Court or federal magistrates. Commencement of these contingent amendments will be subject to passage and commencement of the relevant bills.

The Federal Circuit Court of Australia Legislation Amendment Bill 2012 was passed so that the new name accurately reflects the court's role. The change in name will also highlight the valuable service that the Federal Circuit Court provides to regional Australia through its regular court circuit program. Currently, the Federal Circuit Court is the only federal court that regularly conducts regional courts, which in turn alleviates the burden of litigants having to travel to major cities to have legal matters heard. After the name change commences, it is important that these new amendments come with specific provisions in order to preserve existing arrangements and ensure a smooth transition.

The Federal Magistrates Court was established by the Howard government in 2000, in order to provide for timely, efficient, and less formal adjudication of disputes in the federal jurisdiction. Since this time, the range and amount of cases heard by the Federal Circuit Court greatly increased, highlighting the vital role that the court plays in Australia's federal judicial system. Although the court deals mostly with immigration, bankruptcy and family law matters, it also deals with issues as diverse as water efficiency and telecommunications interception and access. This demonstrates the court's broad jurisdiction. Despite the success of the court, Labor have sought, since 2008, to abolish the court and reconstitute it as separate, lower divisions of the Family and Federal Courts. This was strongly opposed by the Federal Magistrates Court and the Federal Court and successfully resisted by the coalition. The former Attorney-General, the member for Gellibrand, conceded defeat and instead proposed that it be maintained under a new name to reflect its expanded workload and jurisdiction. In doing so, Labor accepted the recommendation of the federal judiciary, which itself adopted the policy announced by the coalition in the 2010 election.

The bill makes necessary amendments to update references about the Federal Magistrates Court and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia across all Commonwealth legislation. While I am speaking on this bill I would also like to take the opportunity to recognise the invaluable work and dedication that the federal magistrates have provided over the past 13 years, in providing justice to people all over the country. I therefore commend the bill to the House.