“An untidy game of ‘push and shove’ between the Senate Chamber and a Liberal controlled Senate Committee may well be setting Prime Minister Morrison up for his first legislative failure,” said Centre Alliance’s Justice spokesperson, Senator Rex Patrick.

Against the backdrop of last Thursday’s leadership turmoil, the Attorney-General introduced two significant bills into the House which are designed to amalgamate the Family and Federal Circuit Courts. While the changes are very significant, and impact a wide range of people, the Government wants the bills rushed through the Parliament so that the courts merge on the 1st of January 2019.

On the Wednesday evening prior, the Senate Selection of Bills Committee met to discuss the anticipated legislation’s referral to the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee. The Selection of Bills Committee reported back to the Senate on Thursday that it was “unable to reach an agreement on a reporting date”.

The Senate voted on Thursday (with the support of Labor, the Greens and crossbench Senators Patrick, Griff, Storer and Hinch) for a reporting date of 15 April 2019. “Noting the significance the change will have on everyday Australians, this cant be rushed,” said Rex.

However, when the Liberal controlled Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee met later on Thursday it defied the will of the Senate and set a rushed submission closing date of 14 September.

”This is totally unacceptable,” said Rex. “There’s over 600 pages of complex legislation and the Committee expects judges, lawyers, family law stakeholders and mums and dads to read, consider and respond to the Committee in just three weeks.”

The Committee has also resolved to report on 26 November, almost 5 months before the date specified by the Senate. A truncated process is utterly inappropriate for legislation of such complexity and consequence to so many Australian families.

”Centre Alliance does not have a position on the bill at this point in time but will certainly not be voting for anything that has not been properly scrutinised, including consideration of the view of all relevant stakeholders. Prime Minister Morrison needs to take his Attorney-General to one side and tell him to settle down.”

”When Parliament resumes in two weeks I will be moving a motion in the Senate to shift the submission closing date to late November and I foreshadow further motions relating to reporting dates once all submissions have been received.

“Prime Minister Morrison risks his first major legislative failure if he attempts to rush these bills through the Senate. Both he and the Attorney-General need to recognise that the Senate takes its legislative review role seriously and does not take direction from the executive,” said Rex.
Centre Alliance’s Justice spokesperson, Senator Rex Patrick