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Wednesday, 6 February 2013
Page: 332


Mr DREYFUS (IsaacsAttorney-General and Minister for Emergency Management) (16:01): I thank honourable members for their contribution to this debate. The Federal Circuit Court of Australia Legislation Amendment Act 2012 passed the parliament late last year. It will rename the Federal Magistrates Court as the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and will change the title of federal magistrate to judge. This bill, the Federal Circuit Court of Australia (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2012, operates together with the act and makes consequential amendments to the Commonwealth statute book to reflect the court's new name and the new title of federal magistrate. This bill (inaudible) a smooth transition to the new name without altering (inaudible). The government will commence this bill concurrently with the Federal Circuit Court of Australia Legislation Amendment Act 2012 so that changes are implemented consistently across all relevant legislation. The new name, the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, and the new title of judge better captures the court's modern role and properly reflects the important services that the court provides to rural and regional communities through its program of regular court circuits.

I turn to some comments that have been raised by honourable members in the course of the debate. In particular, the member for Stirling commented on the government's decision to not proceed with the restructure of the Family Court. The government's position was rightly informed by the Skehill strategic review of small and medium agencies in the Attorney-General's portfolio. The government accepted the Skehill report's recommendation that the restructure not proceed as the shared administration between the Family Court and the Federal Magistrates Court, in place since 2009, had already generated efficiencies and strengthened court operations.

The member for Blair, who is again with me in the chamber, commended the important circuit work undertaken by the court for regional communities. I agree with the member for Blair's comments. To illustrate the extent of the court's program of regular court circuits, in the 2011-12 financial year the court circuited to 33 rural and regional locations and spent the equivalent of approximately 145 weeks in federal magistrate hours hearing matters in regional areas.

The changes implemented by this bill form an important part of the government's broader court reform package, which also includes bedding down the judicial complaints framework that was passed by parliament late last year; providing more transparent processes for handling complaints about judicial officers; injecting $38 million over four years to the courts to ensure that they can continue to deliver key services, including regional circuit work; implementing new court fee structures to better reflect the capacity of different litigants, such as large corporations and government departments, which are balanced by the reintroduction of fee waivers and exceptions for disadvantaged litigants; and introducing legislation to establish the new Military Court of Australia to deal with serious service charges against ADF personnel. I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.