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Wednesday, 30 May 2018
Page: 5076


Ms BUTLER (Griffith) (17:53): I ask the Attorney-General to cast his mind back to the shadow Attorney-General's questions. He did not seem to answer the shadow Attorney-General's question as to why the government deemed it appropriate to abolish the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce in the middle of the banking royal commission. Attorney-General, why is it being abolished? Do you support the time frame for the abolition, given that the nation is absolutely concerned and aghast at the revelations coming out of the banking royal commission?

Attorney-General, could I also draw your attention to the questions that I asked you. I appreciate the response that you gave on a question I didn't ask you, but, in terms of the questions that I did ask you, what is being done with cross-examination law reform? Where is the government up to with cross-examination law reform? Specifically, what quality assurance will there be in respect of the person who is to be asking the questions on behalf of the alleged abusive former partner? Secondly, what is going to be done, if anything, to ensure gender equality amongst the judiciary for the new amalgamated court? Thirdly, what will be done to ensure that newly appointed judges have family law experience? What will be done to ensure that they have experience and expertise in respect of family violence, specifically?

Attorney-General, could you also consider the question that I asked you about the recommendations in the Social Policy and Legal Affairs Committee report in respect of family report writers? To give you some context as to my particular interest in this, as you know, I have some portfolio interest in family violence. On Friday, in my electorate, with the Hon. Di Farmer MP, the Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence in the Palaszczuk government, and Councillor Kara Cook, who is not only our local councillor but the person who set up Australia's first domestic violence law firm as its principal, we held the domestic violence forum. A local came along and told us some horror stories about her experience with family law, all of which you would of course be familiar with, as the Attorney-General. One of the issues she squarely raised was her very poor experience with family report writers. I ask you again: what will be done in respect of the quality of family report writers, the regulation of family report writers, the creation of a complaints mechanism in respect of family report writers and the ongoing professional development of family report writers to ensure that they are up-to-date on current thinking in respect of family violence and its root causes?

Attorney-General, I also refer you to my question about the courts' family violence work plan. As you would be aware, the most recent family violence work plan in the family law courts expired in 2016. It's now 2018. I am sure you would agree, Attorney-General, that family violence remains a significant concern not just for the courts but for this nation. We are midway through the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022. We have a situation where there is still a high prevalence of family violence and a high prevalence of family violence amongst contested cases in the family law courts. It is the case, I expect you would agree, that it is important for the family law courts—that includes the new amalgamated entity, once it comes into existence—to continue to proactively improve procedures and responses to family violence in respect of the litigants that appear before them. Attorney-General, will there be another family violence action plan to replace the action plan that expired in 2016? What's the progress, if any, that's been made in respect of preparing a further family violence action plan?

Attorney-General, I also asked you about the Family violence best practice principles, which is a document created by the courts, as you are aware. I asked you what is being done to ensure that that document also reflects the evidence base and best practice thinking in respect of family violence. We have in this country Australia's National Research Organisation for Women's Safety, of which you are well aware, having formerly been the social services minister. That entity, ANROWS, was established under the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022. It is the entity that is creating an evidence base, as is envisaged under the national plan, in respect of how we can best respond to family violence. What is being done to ensure that that organisation, the evidence base it's creating and the guidance it can provide are being consulted and incorporated into future family violence work in the family law courts? I'm sure you would agree that it is very important that the courts take onboard current thinking, emerging practice and emerging evidence in respect of the proper responses to family violence and understanding its causes.

Attorney-General, can I ask you to consider the questions that were previously asked and unanswered, and consider providing answers to them in your next response?