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Wednesday, 19 October 1983
Page: 1964

Mr RUDDOCK(7.01) —by leave-I move:

(1) Clause 13, page 8, lines 13 and 14, omit ''by inserting after sub-section ( 2) the following sub-section:'', substitute

''(1) by inserting after sub-section

(2) the following sub-sections:''.

(2) Clause 13, page 8, at the end of the clause add the following paragraph:

''; and (b) omitting sub-section (2A) and substituting the following sub- section:

'(2A) The Governor-General shall appoint-

(a) the person who, at the date of commencement of section 7 of the Family Law Amendment Act 1983, hold office as Judges of the Family Court of Western Australia; and

(b) any person who is subsequently appointed as a Judge of the Family Court of Western Australia,

as Judges of the Family Court of Australia, and a person so appointed may serve in the office of Judge of the Family Court of Australia notwithstanding that he continues to hold, and serve in, the office of Judge of the Family Court of Western Australia.' ''.

The Joint Select Committee on the Family Law Act received submissions from the Government of Western Australia that steps should be taken to confer Federal commissions on judges of the Western Australian Family Court to enable them to participate in particular in the appellate work of the Court and generally to experience the way in which the Family Court of Australia was conducting itself elsewhere in Australia. The Committee agreed that that was a desirable objective and included a recommendation to that effect in its report. It stated:

In this connection it should be noted that if judges were granted federal commissions it would enable them to sit, if required, in the exercise of jurisdiction under the Family Law Act in any part of Australia. It would not, however, be possible for judges not granted Western Australian commissions to exercise jurisdiction under the Western Australian Family Court Act 1976.

Notwithstanding the fact that the Committee recommended as it did, the Government has not accepted that recommendation nor did the previous Government. I gather this is because of the way in which judges in Western Australia and judges under the Family Law Act are paid. I have an amendment that I intend to press later in relation to the remuneration of judges commissioned under the Family Law Act. Because in Western Australia the judges under that Act are the equivalent of district court judges in Western Australia, it is assumed that the Commonwealth would have to pay some additional moneys, presumably to bring the emoluments of the Western Australian judges to the same level as those paid to the Family Court judges. I suppose it is assumed that in some way that would present difficulties for the Commonwealth in an administrative sense, in terms of prestige and in other ways. I must say that if those objections were substantive, I would have hoped that they would have been put to the Joint Select Committee when it examined this matter. I think that there are distinct advantages to be gained from commissioning the Western Australian judges in the same way as the judges of the Family Court are commissioned. It is for this reason that I moved the amendment I did.

I understand that when the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) spoke on this matter in another place he also mentioned that he could already give the Western Australian judges commissions. While that might be the case, I think that-I perhaps stand corrected on this-there is only one judge who has been given such a commission. He is an eminent judge, the chief judge of the Western Australian Court and past Chairman of the Family Law Council. I think that there are good reasons why this ought to be extended to the other judges of the Court as outlined, as it appears that the Government is unwilling to make those appointments I have moved my amendment. If the Minister representing the Attorney were able to indicate that the Government was intending to move in this way and to give the Western Australian judges commissions, perhaps there would be no need to press the matter.