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$160 Million Dollars cost of Plebiscite whilst Family Law System is in crisis

$160 Million Dollars cost of Plebiscite whilst Family Law System is in crisis

Rosie Batty, 2015 Australian of the year, has renewed her push for a Royal Commission into Australia’s family law system.

Rosie has campaigned against domestic violence since her son Luke was murdered by his father in 2014. She calls it a ‘broken system.’

She now questions how the Federal Government is willing to spend $160 million on a same-sex marriage plebiscite whilst failing to invest as much into improving the family law system.

 

The Federal Government’s $160 million investment into the same-sex marriage plebiscite

A plebiscite is non-binding.

This means that even if Australians vote in favour of same-sex marriage, Parliament still needs to vote before any legal reform can occur.

The announcement of the large expense was met with criticism from the community and relevant stakeholders.

The announcement of the $160 million expense was met with criticism from the community and relevant stakeholders.

The Australian Marriage Equality (AME) national director Rodney Croome reaffirmed his call for the Turnbull government to drop the plebiscite.

Croome stated that a plebiscite is an inappropriate way to deal with marriage equality in part due to its costly and wasteful nature.

Croome stated that a plebiscite is an inappropriate way to deal with marriage equality in part due to its costly and wasteful nature.

This is particularly so when considering ‘Parliament could pass marriage equality tomorrow’.

Croome argues that a plebiscite could easily become a platform for hatred and division. LGBTIQ individuals could be exposed to damaging impacts on their mental health if faced with large groups in society vocally and publicly decrying same-sex marriage.

 

What the experts are saying

Greens Senator Robert Sims has stated that the $160 million could easily have been injected back into the Budget’s bottom line.

Senator Simms argued that the massive $160 million cost was absurd in light of the Liberal Party’s protestations of a ‘so-called’ Budget emergency.

Modelling by PwC Australia has also showcased how a standalone same-sex marriage plebiscite cost end up costing the Australian economy $525 million. As polls showcase 72% of Australians already support marriage equality (Crosby Textor 2014), the plebiscite becomes increasingly rendered unnecessary, especially in light of the enormous associated costs.

As polls showcase 72% of Australians already support marriage equality (Crosby Textor 2014), the plebiscite becomes increasingly rendered unnecessary, especially in light of the enormous associated costs.

 

The Federal Government’s Pledge to the Improving the Family Law System

The $160 million investment into the same-sex marriage plebiscite could have been put to better use elsewhere.

The latest budget has announced major reforms to Family Law. The biggest being that the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) will be reviewed.

The Act will be reviewed for the first time since it was introduced more than 40 years ago. Alongside the review, a Parliamentary Inquiry into family law will be conducted.

Furthermore, the Family Law Act 1075 (Cth) will include an amendment which will disallow the alleged perpetrators to personally cross-examine victims (and vice-versa).

This announcement was met with widespread approval. It has strong benefits for protecting the health and safety of victims of domestic violence.

 

What is the federal government doing about this crisis?

Turnbull Government also announced $80 million in funding towards the family law and legal assistance sector:

  • $55.7 million over three years from 2017-2018 for community legal assistance services
  • $3.4 million into expanding the Domestic Violence Unit pilot.
  • $12.7 million funding for a new ‘Parenting Management Hearings’ initiative. This will be a new alternate dispute resolution process to assist self-represented litigants. (More information specifically on Parenting Management Hearing is available on our website).

Overall, the funding allocated for the plebiscite in the latest budget was arguable short-sighted and wasteful. The budget should have provided assistance and reforms to alleviating injustices particularly in the form of fighting family violence.

Hayder Shkara
Hayder Shkara
hayder@justicefamilylawyers.com.au

Principal of Justice Family Lawyers, Hayder specialises in complex parenting and property family law matters. He is based in Sydney and holds a Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Communications from UTS.

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