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Tuesday, 26 November 1974
Page: 2749

Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral) - The amount spent on justice in this community is very slight indeed. We in this country tend to neglect it in the civil sphere, in the criminal sphere especially, and most of all in the area of family law. I do not think anyone should be concerned about the almost trivial price one would have to pay if this proposed legislation can achieve a useful result in these family matters. All those who have been expressing great concern for the preservation of the family ought to be in support of the proposal to establish a family court to deal with those matters. Listening to what was put by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Greenwood) I gathered that substantially he was saying: 'Let us leave things as they are and deal with family matters in much the same atmosphere as you deal with other matters'. He complained about having other courts and not using the same buildings. I suppose that one of the things a family court would want to do would be to get right away from the area of the other courts. Perhaps one could use offices. One could imagine a family court in a building which was away from the criminal and civil courts and away altogether from that atmosphere without us having even to build new premises. I think we would not want to have this new system administered in the same courts as civil and criminal justice is being administered unless that were necessary. That is where we differ and I am afraid we will probably continue to differ.

I was asked about matters which were not capable of being dealt with by the family court. There are very few of them. For example, juvenile delinquency is certainly an important matter but nowhere is there unanimity on whether matters of juvenile delinquency should be covered. A deliberate decision was made after a lot of consideration not to deal with juvenile delinquency matters although in those matters a person is entitled to a proper trial. In any event this is a large step forward and that is enough without having to tackle the question, which has not proved easy of solution elsewhere, whether we should combine juvenile delinquency with other family matters. Turning to the other areas referred to, it is really only a question of dealing with those who fall outside the concept of marriage, that is, the illegitimate or ex-nuptial children and the matters which concern them in the area of the States. My understanding is that there would be fairly ready agreement to enabling the Commonwealth to exercise power in this area. One would think that if there were any reason prevailing in the States they would be agreeable to transferring this area to the competence of this legislature. Other matters such as the testator's family maintenance matters, are traditionally, even in the States which have made some progress in dealing with family matters, not dealt with in a family atmosphere but in equity courts. Certainly that is so in New South Wales and these cases may be regarded only marginally as family matters.

There is every reason why we should take this step now under consideration and it is only those who want to hold us back and who are satisfied with things as they are who are opposed to it. I do not want to stir up another dissertation on this matter. It has been widely discussed. I think the concept is widely accepted so may I suggest that we vote on the title of the part.

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