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Tuesday, 9 October 2012
Page: 11707

Mr ROBERT (Fadden) (18:44): I rise to speak on the Federal Circuit Court of Australia Legislation Amendment Bill 2012. The purpose of this weighty bill of great substance and noble cause is to change the name of the Federal Magistrates Court to the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, and I have 30 minutes in which to outline the impact of this judicious change of name to the judicious court.

By way of history, which is always instructive in these matters, the Federal Magistrates Court was established by the Howard government 12 years ago, in 2000, in order to provide for timely, efficient and less formal adjudication of disputes in the federal jurisdiction. One should always question, when one changes the name, whether, indeed, the court has been effective, and, looking at its history, its throughput and its efficiency, it can be said that it has been very successful. In fact, in the 2010-11 financial year, it finalised over 90,000 matters, which included family law, migration, bankruptcy and consumer protection. In fact, the court now deals with 86 per cent of all family law matters, up from 60 per cent in 2004. Eighty-four per cent of all applications filed are completed within six months—a staggering testimony to the efficiency of the court.

But here is where the debate gets a little interesting, because in 2008 the Rudd-Gillard government sought to abolish the court—to abolish a court that is moving through 84 per cent of matters within six months and that has dealt with 90,000 matters in a calendar year. Clearly a court so effective, so inefficient, could not possibly be allowed to stand within the halls of the government's sheer incompetence with everything else! The Federal Magistrates Court strongly opposed, of course, the government's move, and the government's move was also successfully resisted by the coalition. The federal court stands today.

Earlier this year, the Attorney-General conceded defeat, to her credit, and, instead, proposed that the court be maintained under a new name to reflect its expanded workload and jurisdiction. Hilarious! The Attorney-General was happy to recognise the expanded workload—only because she realised that she did not have the numbers in the House and therefore could not move to demolish it. In so doing, the Attorney-General accepted the recommendation of the federal judiciary which itself adopted the policy announced by the coalition in 2010 election, including our own nomenclature. Well, flattery of course is a marvellous indication of that which is right and good. It is simply a shame that the government's maladministration of the courts has now resulted in the new circuit court having to curtail its circuit sittings.

It should be noted that the bill will, in effect, continue the Federal Magistrates Court in existence. It will simply change the name to reflect the wider work that the court is now doing as a great workhorse within the judicial system in our country. The bill will not alter the jurisdiction or the status of the Federal Magistrates Court and the arrangements under which it operates. It is fabulous to see the government not touching something that works. It would be great if the government could take that degree of thoughtfulness across the rest of the areas of public policy where its current 'Midas touch' is turning everything into a complete disaster.

Changing the name of the court of course is not intended to create a new, separate federal court or change existing arrangements. It is as it is—a bill to change the name of the court. For these reasons, I commend the bill to the House. I do not believe the coalition wishes to address the matter in any more depth, looking at my senior colleagues, and I simply pass it across to the minister at the desk to sum up and conclude this weighty debate on this issue.