18 February 2021

*** E&OE***

Most Australians are not charged with criminal offences.

Most Australians don't have car accidents and are not injured at work.

Most Australians don't get involved in civil disputes involving the Supreme Court or the District Court.

But, in a situation where one in three marriages break up and more than one in two second marriages break up, most Australians have the need to avail themselves of good legal advice when it comes to family law and child support.

What this Government is doing is listening to One Nation and not the Law Council of Australia.

This is a reactionary, retrograde step that's consistent with the policy and position of the conservative parties to the time of Whitlam and Murphy.

When the Family Court system was brought into this country, it was world's best practice and followed across the world.

What this Government is doing is going back to the days of the Matrimonial Causes Act, Garfield Barwick and the Menzies’ era.

It's not looking at the progress of this country and what's happened since.

Do they want private investigators now to look at what happened in terms of a family break-up?

That's the sort of mentality of this Government.

I practised in this jurisdiction for 25 years before I was elected in 2007.

I was an accredited specialist in family law, and, I did tens of thousands of cases in this jurisdiction.

I know there are issues in this jurisdiction; I know there are sometimes judges and magistrates and problems in this jurisdiction, but you can't defund the system and then blame the system.

That's what this Government has done again and again.

I can't believe the number of lawyers I know in Queensland, where I practised, who have approached me and said: “Can you do something about the fact that we haven't got enough judges in the jurisdiction in Brisbane?

“And, while you're there, Shayne, how about you think about Sydney or Melbourne and elsewhere.”

What has happened here is that not a dollar extra will go into any other state or territory other than South Australia - talk about 30 pieces of silver. This is simply wrong.

When the Howard Government was in, they passed legislation that wasn't in the best interests of children either.

They weren't focusing on making sure that kids have a right to know and be cared for by both parents, regardless of their marital status, or on protecting children.

They brought in a primary and secondary consideration, part 7 of the Family Law Act.

This Government has done everything they possibly can to undermine the system.

Every conservative Government has done that - constantly filing against the system and, from time to time, appointing people on the bench who don't have much experience in this area.

I can recall speaking to one particular person on the bench at one time, having to explain what a statement of financial circumstances was.

I explained how the child support system was applied and operated.

Every lawyer who practised in this jurisdiction would have stories like that.

This Government is getting rid of that specialist jurisdiction and having a general jurisdiction.

You can see that, if you're an experienced family lawyer.

The tragedy is about 40 per cent of our people are going in there - because they don't fund legal aid properly - self-represented.

Every experienced lawyer would have seen the challenge that it brings.

They would have also seen lawyers and people on the bench who aren't experienced in the jurisdiction.

This is very complex legislation. It's legislation as complex as the Income Tax Assessment Act and also the Corporations Law.

You need specialist judges and specialist jurisdiction.

That's why the states and territories have accredited specialisation when it comes to legal training in this area.

To become an accredited specialist and to practice in the area at that level, you need to study very hard and pass exams and do everything you possibly can to get there - almost the same way you do when you're a doctor and you specialise.

What's this Government going do? Roll it into one, have a general practice and expect judges and the lawyers who practise in this area to understand the sensitivities of dealing with someone who is a victim of domestic and family violence.

It will not work. It's ideological. It's obsessive, and this Government continues to do it. It's on display here today.

Lionel Murphy and Gough Whitlam were ahead of the curve.

 Labor has consistently supported the family law system in this country.

We've consistently been on the side of progression and progressiveness.

This Government is on the side of reaction and conservatism.

Women and children will suffer as a result of this decision today.

They should hang their heads in shame. There'll be consequences to their constituents for decades to come, because of this decision.

This is one of the worst decisions this Government has ever made. They should hang their heads in shame.

They should support the system and keep the legislation in place and fund the system properly.