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House of Representatives

Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2019

Explanatory Memorandum

(Circulated by authority of the Attorney-General, the Honourable Christian Porter MP)

GENERAL OUTLINE

1. The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2019 (the Bill) makes consequential amendments and provides transitional provisions necessary to support the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia Bill 2019 (the FCFC Bill).

2. The FCFC Bill would bring together the Family Court of Australia (the Family Court) and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia (the Federal Circuit Court) together to be known as the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFC). The FCFC would comprise two 'divisions'. The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 1) (FCFC (Division 1)) would be a continuation of the Family Court. The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 2) (FCFC (Division 2)) would be a continuation of the Federal Circuit Court. This structural reform of the federal courts is intended to:

·
create a consistent pathway for Australian families in having their family law disputes dealt with in the federal courts
·
improve the efficiency of the federal court system, and
·
ensure outcomes for Australian families are resolved in the most timely, informed and cost effective manner possible.

3. To give effect to this structural reform, the Bill makes a number of amendments to Commonwealth laws to reflect and support the proposed operation of the FCFC Bill. These include:

·
amending the Family Law Act 1975 (Family Law Act) to ensure that it continues to operate effectively in the context of the FCFC and the newly created single point of entry of first instance family law and child support matters into the federal family law court system
·
amending the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976 (Federal Court Act) to ensure consistent operation of the Federal Court Act with the FCFC Bill
·
amending the FCFC Bill, Family Law Act (and other Acts referring to Rules of Court made by the FCFC (Division 1) or FCFC (Division 2)) to reflect that after two years, Judges or a majority of judges of the FCFC (Division 1) would make the FCFC (Division 1) Rules of Court and the standard Rules of Court, and judges or a majority of judges of the FCFC (Division 2) would make the FCFC (Division 2) Rules of Court
·
repealing the Federal Circuit Court of Australia Act 1999 as the majority of its provisions, as amended to account for the reforms, have been replicated in Chapter 4 of the FCFC Bill, and
·
making minor consequential amendments to other Commonwealth Acts (to accommodate references to the FCFC (Division 1) and the FCFC (Division 2))

4. This Bill would also ensure that appropriate transitional arrangements are in place for matters before the federal courts as at the date of commencement of the FCFC Act. In particular, this Bill:

·
provides a framework to preserve and transition the title and appointments of the Chief Justice and the Deputy Chief Justice of the Family Court, Senior Judges and Judges of the Family Court and certain other personnel of the Family Court to the FCFC (Division 1) (Part 2 of Schedule 5)
·
provides a framework to preserve and transition the title and appointments of the Chief Judge and Judges of the Federal Circuit Court and certain other personnel of the Federal Circuit Court to the FCFC (Division 2) (Part 3 of Schedule 5), and
·
provides transitional arrangements for family law appeals which are on foot in the Family Court as at the commencement day, as well as appeals which are eligible to be filed as at the commencement day.

5. For the avoidance of doubt, any first-instance proceedings on foot in the Family Court or the Federal Circuit Court as at the date of commencement of the FCFC Act would be heard in the FCFC (Division 1) or the FCFC (Division 2), respectively. This arrangement appropriately reflects the continuation of the Family Court as the FCFC (Division 1) and the Federal Circuit Court as the FCFC (Division 2) under the FCFC Bill.

6. The establishment of the FCFC will increase efficiencies, reduce delays, and lead to better outcomes in the family law jurisdiction of the federal court system, particularly for those families interacting with the courts during stressful and difficult periods in their lives. Together, these changes will further support the long term financial sustainability of the federal court system, building upon court reform work undertaken in the context of the 2015-16 Budget and aligning with ongoing efficiency work of the federal courts.

FINANCIAL IMPACT

7. As part of the 2018-19 Budget, the Government allocated $4.0 million to assist with the implementation costs of the structural reform of the federal courts.

8. As part of the 2018-19 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, the Government also provided a further $3.7 million over the forward estimates for an additional Judge to hear family law appeals.


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