Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Brandis: Family Court cuts will increase delay and cost

George Brandis
Shadow Attorney-General Senator George Brandis SC has criticised the Federal Budget for cuts to funding to the Family and Federal Magistrates Courts:

The Family Court has suffered a 6.04% reduction in funding in real terms in last night’s Budget [Budget Paper No. 4, p. 25], on the basis of the Budget’s assumption of 3.25% inflation over 2008-2009. This is more than 3 times the 2% Efficiency Dividend.

The reduction in funding of the Family Court has not been offset by the transfer of resources to the Federal Magistrates Court. In fact, the Federal Magistrates Court has itself suffered a funding reduction of 4.6% in real terms, more than twice the Efficiency Dividend.

The pressures on the Family Court have grown steadily over recent years, while it is common knowledge in the legal profession that the Federal Magistrates Court, which currently deals with about 80% of family law matters, is already overburdened.

It is inconceivable that the Government should think it a good idea to place additional pressure on both of those Courts, with the inevitable result that delays for litigants will be increased and legal costs escalate.

It is particularly surprising that the Government should strip resources away from the adjudication of family law matters when the future structure of the Courts is under review by the Semple Inquiry.

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