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Friday, 6 December 1985
Page: 3149


Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Resources and Energy)(12.27) —On the information available to me, I believe I am able to give Senator Harradine the assurance that he seeks. The provisions here to amend the Family Law Act are to deal with case management practices and procedures. They do not in any way alter the substantive law or the way in which that law will in fact be applied. The basic desire is to avoid the situation wherein a great deal of judicial time was being occupied on routine procedural matters which might more appropriately have been dealt with by registrars. As I understand it, it is to remove a particular anomaly whereby an application that a matter be heard by a judge rather than a registrar had to be itself dealt with by a judge. The situation was thus being created that a great deal of scarce judicial time, which all of us concerned with the administration of the Family Law Act want allocated to the crucial property and more particularly custody cases that are appropriate for judicial attention, was being occupied in that way. This then added to the delays in the lists for the matters that did have to be heard by the judges.

The estimate that I have been given and one of the reasons for wanting this legislation to be passed now rather than referred to a committee was that this particular matter was having the potential to cause a great deal of delay in the lists. As a result, it was desired to break that essentially technical log-jam. As I understand it, those are the reasons for it and that is why the provision is cast as it is, to rearrange who can apply to whom for what. It is simply in order to avoid that situation. It is a corollary of recent amendments which have been designed to vest more power in the registrars and take some of the pressure off the judges.

Bill agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.