Family Court Abolition threat

The Morrison Government’s move to abolish the Family Court has been denounced as a threat to children and families which will put Australian families at greater risk in their time of greatest need.

The Attorney-General, Christian Porter, stunned many in the family law sector when he announced plans to destroy the Family Court based only on a 6-week desktop review by an accounting firm.

Now, today, in damning evidence to a parliamentary inquiry, the President of the Law Council of Australia, Pauline Wright, has warned that the Morrison Government’s proposal would be a disaster for families – especially at the time when the COVID-19 pandemic has placed extraordinary pressure on all Australians.

Ms Wright warned that “these bills would put at greater risk those Australians in need of specialist family law assistance to resolve the most intractable of disputes.”

Ms Wright also said that the Morrison Government’s proposal “would dismantle a world-leading institution, undermining specialisation in the system, to the detriment of children and families at their most vulnerable.”

The existence of a specialist family court is crucial to the well-being of many thousands of Australians, especially young children. It is too important to be dealt with in such a chaotic and arrogant fashion by a Government that believes a hand-picked accounting firm, which undertook a short desktop review of the family law system, knows more about the family law system than Australian families or those with decades of experience and expertise.

Labor acknowledges there are significant problems with the current family law system, which have led to unacceptable delays for vulnerable families and – particularly – children.

There are many factors which have contributed to this current state of affairs. They include the Liberal Government’s failure over the last seven years to appoint judges in a timely manner, the Government’s abject failure to increase funding for court-related and legal assistance services in line with ever-increasing demand and a number of inefficiencies in the family law system.

Rather than taking action to address these problems, the Morrison Government is plunging ahead with its reckless proposal  to abolish the Family Court altogether.

The Morrison Government should immediately abandon its proposal to abolish the Family Court and instead take the necessary steps to address the needs of Australian families.

As a start, for the good of all Australians, the Morrison Government should commit to the retention of a stand-alone, specialist family court and immediately respond to the comprehensive report on the family law system by the Australian Law Reform Commission – a report that has been gathering dust in the Attorney-General’s office for over 18 months.

As Ms Wright told today’s hearing: “[t]he strongest protection for children, families and survivors of family violence is to maintain a stand-alone, specialist family court.”

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