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Tuesday, 8 November 1977
Page: 3106

Mr Jacobi (HAWKER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 12 October 1977:

(   1 ) Has the Attorney-General's attention been drawn to a statement made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs on 19 September 1977 in relation to child abductions.

(2)   Because of the continuing frequency of abductions is it most undesirable to have further delay before action is taken in this area.

(3)   Will the Attorney-General urgently recommend a system of children's visas, whereby no child could leave Australia without the consent of any person with custody or guardianship of, or access to, that child.

(4)   In addition to the proposal in part (3), what legislative changes does the Attorney-General propose to make to the Family Law Act to prevent children being taken out of jurisdiction.

(5)   Does the Government intend to set up a joint parliamentary committee to inquire into and report upon the effectiveness and the deficiencies of the Family Law Act.

Mr Howard - The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

(   1 ) The Attorney-General's attention has been drawn to a statement made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the House of Representatives on 21 September 1977 in answer to a question by the honourable member concerning child abductions.

(2)   The Attorney-General agrees that there should be no delay in implementing any action that has been recommended to prevent the removal of children from Australia against the wishes of a parent entitled to custody or access.

(3)   The question of restricting other than through a Court order under the Family Law Act the right of persons to depart from Australia is the concern of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, as well as the Attorney-General. As indicated in the statement of the Minister for Foreign Affairs referred to in ( 1) above, the interdepartmental committee that recommended amendments to the Passports Act also recommended further examination of other measures to meet the problem raised by the honourable member. The Attorney-General will see that the honourable member's suggestion is considered in the course of that further examination.

(4)   Sections 64 and 70 of the Family Law Act already authorise a Court to order the passports of a child or any other person to be delivered up to the Court if there is a possibility of the removal of the child from Australia or the person has deliberately defied a custody or access order. Sections 68 and 69 enable Australia to implement arrangements with other countries for reciprocal enforcement of custody orders. The Government is actively pursuing the possibility of such arrangements with a number of overseas countries with a view to concluding such arrangements. In view of these provisions and the provisions of the Migration Act to which the Minister for Foreign Affairs referred in his statement (see answer to ( 1 ) above), there are no plans to make other amendments to the Family Law Act pending any recommendations as a result of the further examination referred to in ( 3 ) above.

(5)   In a press release dated 23 September 1977 the Attorney-General stated that 'he proposed that possibly next year, a parliamentary committee should review the Family Law Act to determine whether any changes to the broad principles of the Act should be made. . . .'

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