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Tuesday, 9 October 2012
Page: 11708


Ms KING (BallaratParliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Transport and Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing) (18:49): I thank the member for Fadden for his lengthy and weighty contribution to this debate! On behalf of the Attorney-General, I would like to thank the member for his contribution. From its rather humble beginnings and from being underfunded some 12 years ago, the Federal Magistrates Court has grown to become the first port of call for the majority of family law, bankruptcy and migration matters in Australia. Its caseload totalled some 83,000 separate matters in the 2010-2011 year alone, and over the past 12 years the court has delivered on its goal of affordable, efficient and quick justice services. It has achieved this in major capital cities and, as a regional member, I am pleased to say it has regular circuits. It has been through Alice Springs, Broken Hill, Launceston, Rockhampton and many, many other places. Last financial year it visited some 33 important rural and regional cities. Now is the time to properly recognise the court's role and reach within the federal judicial system through appropriate titles for both the court and its judicial officers.

The Federal Circuit Court of Australia Legislation Amendment Bill 2012 achieves this recognition, and the bill amends the Federal Magistrates Act 1999 and other legislation to rename the court as the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and changes the title of Chief Federal Magistrate to Chief Judge and of a federal magistrate to Judge. The consequential amendments also ensure that existing arrangements for the court and its judicial officers, including their entitlements, continue to operate exactly as before.

A name is a very public statement of identity and it tells us a great deal about the character and the purpose of the organisation. The title of the Federal Magistrates Court may have been appropriate back in 2000 but it is no longer a good fit for the unique character and broad reach of this court. Retitling the court as the Federal Circuit Court of Australia clearly signals the prominence of the circuit aspect of the court's work and the federal nature of its jurisdiction. It is a name worthy of the court's vision and is reflective of its place in the federal justice system. Similarly, titles for the Chief Federal Magistrate as Chief Judge and of a federal magistrate as Judge are also consistent with the court's identity and status as a Federal Court created under chapter III of the Constitution.

The bill also forms part of this government's wider court reforms which will ensure that the federal judicial system provides accessible, equitable and understandable justice for the community. To that end the government has directed an additional $38 million to the Federal Court system to ensure levels of service for the community are maintained as well as introducing a strong judicial complaints framework and actively encouraging greater diversity within judicial appointments.

The court deals with a multitude of complex and very difficult matters every single day. Of all of the federal courts it is one that the community is most likely to have contact with, and it is important that the public can clearly identify this court as an appropriate forum in which to resolve their dispute. Court users have the right to be able to readily and easily distinguish between courts and to feel confident that they will be treated fairly with matters dealt with quickly and cost effectively by choosing the appropriate court in the first instance. The new titles of Chief Judge and Judge will also assist the community to better understand the role of the court's judicial officers and their place within the judicial system.

This bill represents an important change to how the Federal Magistrates Court and its judicial officers will be addressed in future. On the surface a name change may appear a fairly easy endeavour, however, a name change involves close consideration of the court's evolving identity and its role. The bill has been developed in consultation with the court itself, other federal courts and key legal stakeholders to ensure that the new name and titles appropriately reflect the expectations of the court, its judicial officers and court users. Through this bill the Federal Circuit Court and its judges will continue to provide affordable, accessible and streamlined pathways for people across the country to resolve their disputes but only now its name and title will serve to better recognise the important service this court provides. I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Ordered that this bill be reported to the House without amendment.