April 2019 | Les Stubbs

What will be important to you when you vote in the upcoming federal election on 18 May 2019 – tax cuts and/or reform, infrastructure spending, skills development, guaranteeing essential services, reform of capital gains tax and/or superannuation, a carpark construction fund, a budget surplus?

As a family lawyer, there is no more important issue in Australia today than the huge deficit in justice spending in our country – and specifically in the family law area. The current Federal Government continues to refuse to provide adequate funding for legal aid and address family violence and abuse – the recent budget provided additional funding of $20 million, while the estimated shortfall is $310 million! The Federal Government’s own Productivity Commission recently recommended additional funding of $200 million for civil law cases alone.

Further, a funding increase of less than $7 million was provided to our federal courts. This is woefully inadequate to correct the chronic underfunding and under-resourcing of these courts.

All of the above, in my opinion, continues the path of the current Federal Government to destroy the Family Court of Australia. I have written of this previously, and I encourage you to read my past newsletters in which I explained the importance of our Family Court of Australia.

Its judges are recognized and respected worldwide as amongst the best in their specialized area. Similarly, it has always been recognized and respected worldwide as a leader in the family law area.

The Family Court of Australia is a vital cornerstone of our legal system. Its work is highly specialized and it deals with some of the most difficult and complex matters seen before the Courts.

What is not recognized and respected, and what makes it extremely difficult to maintain civilized standards of justice, is the continuing belief of our current Federal Government that the Family Court of Australia deserves no funding, requires no resources, needs no judges, and should “disappear”.

This ‘disappearance’ will be achieved through the merging of the Family Court of Australia with the Federal Circuit Court, thereby removing its identity.

Notwithstanding widespread community, professional and political opposition, the current Federal Government nevertheless tried to force its plans through the Senate just this month. They failed, thankfully!

Merging courts does not resolve the most significant issue, being the chronic under-funding and under-resourcing of the Family Court of Australia. Any reform will require funding and resources – the work will not just “go away” because you remove a court, yet no such funding is provided or proposed.

Those of my clients who read this (and anyone else who has been involved in a family law dispute) do not need to be reminded of the prejudicial and expensive delays in the family law system in Australia. It is the chronic under-funding and under-resourcing of the Family Court which has led and continues to lead, to the crippling delays, pressures, and costs of family law proceedings.

This is a government that, in my opinion, has not abandoned its agenda of doing away with the Family Court of Australia; it is still very much on its agenda. And, importantly, it is a publicly stated proposal by One Nation, on which the current Federal Government relies for support to remain in minority government.

I urge you to ask yourself when you vote – how do you want Australia’s legal future to look? Do you want to vote for a government that doesn’t want a Family Court of Australia? Or, whether you have been, are, or may one day be, involved in family law proceedings, do you want your future decided by specialist judges in a specialized court – just as you have the opportunity to see a specialist doctor, mechanic or engineer?

Ask your local member what their position is on this vital issue. Ask the candidates at the polling booths on 18 May 2019 what their position is on this vital issue.

Make your vote count, and help shape the legal future for family law in Australia.