Lawyers and other “interested parties” have been given two more months to make submissions to an inquiry into a proposed merger of Australia’s Federal Circuit Court with the Family Court.
The controversial merger was suggested in August, with the federal government allowing just three weeks to make submissions on a bill that was more than 500 pages long. But after backlash from the legal community, including the Law Society of NSW, a senate motion was passed in September that will push the closing date for submissions to 23 November, effectively tripling the amount of time for the committee to receive submissions.
Law Society of NSW president Doug Humphreys had previously slammed the short submission period.
“This is the most significant reform of family law in well in excess of 10 years. You don’t do this sort of thing on the run,” Humphreys told The Sydney Morning Herald on 27 August. Humphreys had labelled the short three-week window a “sham consultation process” and urged the government to offer more time for lawyers to make meaningful submissions on the changes.
Law Council of Australia (LCA) President Morry Bailes welcomed the extended deadline. He said the LCA had been given just four business days for a small team of representatives to view the confidential exposure bill of about 530 pages.
“The [former] government timetable allowed for barely a month for submissions to be made on the most significant changes to the family court system in the last 40 years,” Bailes said.
“The Senate has sent a powerful message to government that policy must come before politics when dealing with Australia’s family court system and the vulnerable people caught up in it.”
The new deadline will allow the committee to hold hearings across Australian cities and regions, in the months after 23 November and before the scheduled date to report findings to Parliament in April next year.