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Tuesday, 12 May 2009
Page: 1

Mr Price asked the Attorney-General, in writing, on 10 March 2009:

(1)   Did the ‘Semple report’ (Des Semple and the Attorney-General’s Department, Striking the Right Balance, August 2008) recommend that the handling of family law matters by Family Magistrates be merged with a new general division of the Family Court; if so, was this recommendation contrary to a submission received by Federal Magistrates handling family law matters, who expressed concern that the culture of the Magistrates Court would be sacrificed if the merge were to occur.

(2)   If this recommendation was contrary to the views expressed by these Federal Magistrates in their submission, (a) what action has he taken to ensure that the culture will not be sacrificed under the merger, and (b) has he met with these Federal Magistrates to discuss their concerns; if so, when; if not, why not.

Mr McClelland (Attorney-General) —The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

(1)   The Report of the Review of the delivery by the federal courts of family law services, Future Governance Options for Federal Family Law Courts in Australia: Striking the Right Balance, recommended that there be a single family court, with two separate judicial divisions - a Superior and Appellate Division, and, a General Division - with existing Family Court of Australia judges constituting the former, and Federal Magistrates with family law expertise being offered appointment to the latter division (paragraphs 111-112). A submission to the Review made by Chief Federal Magistrate Pascoe on 5 June 2008 outlined the overall view of the Federal Magistrates Court at that time, that any structural changes to the Court might affect its ‘collegiality, culture and work practices’. The submission is available on my Department’s website, On 20 November 2008, the report of the Review and a consultation paper were released for public comment. On 6 February 2009, Chief Federal Magistrate Pascoe, on behalf of the Federal Magistrates Court, made a submission noting that it was ‘pleasing that the report recognises the culture of the Court and places significant emphasis on the preservation of this culture and work ethic within a new structure’ (submission, p 3) and that a ‘large number of Federal Magistrates expressed support for the recommendations of the Semple Report’ (submission, p 7). The submission is available on my Department’s website, The Government is considering the recommendations made by the Report of the Review.

(2)   Having regard to the Chief Federal Magistrate’s submission of 6 February 2009 on behalf the Federal Magistrates Court, these questions do not arise.