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Monday, 11 May 2015
Page: 2725

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (13:27): The government does not support this amendment, because in our view it is unnecessary and will complicate the system for judicial review of tribunal decisions. The number of appeals heard by the Family Court in child support matters at the moment is very small—not more than about two per year. In practice, almost all child support appeals from the tribunal go to the Federal Circuit Court. Transferring the child support appeals workload to the Federal Court makes sense. These appeals are first and foremost about judicial review of decision making. The Federal Court has expertise in administrative law matters across a wide range of subjects and will capably handle these appeals within its existing resources. The Family Court will be free to focus on the more complex and intractable disputes between parties in relation to property and the shared care of children, which is where its core expertise lies.

I suppose this is a question of characterisation: ought this to be characterised as primarily dealing with child support matters or is the task to be characterised as the appropriate application of administrative law principles? We take the view that the appropriate characterisation is the latter, which is why we do not support this amendment. In our view, the amendment would result in child support matters being treated as both family law matters and administrative law matters with appeals available in two superior courts, which also raises the risk of inconsistent treatment of the same subject matter. For the reasons I have outlined, I hope that explains to you, Senator Collins, why the government does not support the amendment you have moved.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: The question is that opposition amendments (9) to (11) and (13) on sheet 7673 be agreed to.

Question negatived.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: We now move to opposition amendment (12) on sheet 7673.