Judge’s call for Royal Commission dismissed
ATTORNEY-GENERAL Christian Porter has ruled out holding a Royal Commission into the family law system, despite a Chief Justice calling for a public inquiry to be considered.
Mr Porter said yesterday there should be no need for a Royal Commission into the family law system, because the Government does not plan for its court reforms to fail.
He was responding to Chief Justice of the Family Court John Pascoe's suggestion that a Royal Commission into Family Law might be necessary.
The Federal Government is merging the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court to have one court dealing with all family law cases, with appeals to be heard by the Federal Court.
The Chief Justice yesterday told a national family law conference in Brisbane he broadly supported the Australian Law Reform Commission proposed family law system reforms.
But he warned: "If legislation and the ALRC do not assuage public concern, it must be time to consider a Royal Commission into Family Law,'' he said.
"This will allow public discourse by all stakeholders on all elements of the family law system and the protection of children.''
Commenting on the Chief Justice's Royal Commission suggestion, Mr Porter said: "What he is saying is if we fail to fix the known problems, that might be an eventuality.
"I'm not planning to fail in the reform process.''
Mr Porter said the Government only had one path forward - "to fix a broken courts system with two sets of rules and all the complications and chaos that caused''.
"If the Chief Justice is saying we need to fix this and if we don't, there are going to be consequences, then I think people should listen,'' Mr Porter said.
He told the conference: "The structural reforms are about protecting the people that use the courts. They are not about protecting the status of anyone operating inside the court system.
"The reality is that the present system is creating confusion, delay and unnecessary costs for thousands of families inside the system.''
Commenting on reports that some judges were taking four years to deliver family judgments, Mr Porter said it was so far out of benchmarks, no one thought it acceptable.
"One way you can prevent those situations arising in the future is to have greater transparency into key performance indicators and court data for the public, so they can assess performance,'' he said.
Wendy Kahler-Thompson of the Law Council of Australia, family law section, said in the government's "parallel universe'', separated families were "outputs and statistics''.
"The family law system is chronically underfunded and that will not be fixed by merging the courts and giving it a new name,'' she said.
"Without new and substantial funding the unnecessary delays for Australian families will continue.''