Civil Law and Justice Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 - Second Reading


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (20:01): I am the Chair of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, to which this bill was referred by the Senate. The committee did investigate the bill and made certain recommendations. These are numerated in the second reading speech and the minister will no doubt discuss them as well, and Senator Moore has just given a fair summary of the committee's report. I'm pleased to say that the report of the committee was a unanimous report. There were no additional comments or dissenting reports.

I do thank members of the committee, who include the deputy chair, Senator Pratt; Senator Fawcett; Senator McKim; Senator Hume; and Senator Watt. I want to thank the committee secretariat: Toni Matulick and the Senior Research Officer and Administrative Officer, Nicholas Craft and Jo-Anne Holmes respectively, who assisted the committee in coming to the conclusions that it did. I also want to thank all of the submitters. There were six submissions made in response to the committee's advertising for submissions. These were from the Australian Human Rights Commission; the Chief Justice of the Family Court, Diana Bryant; the Law Council of Australia; Ms Rona Goold; the Attorney-General's Department; and the Law Society of New South Wales.

I think this exercise indicates that Senate committees, when they work together collegiately and with a mind to what is best for Australia, can work in a way that brings in a unanimous report, which, to my understanding, the government has actioned in the bill before the Senate that we're dealing with today.

Recommendation 1, which was a recommendation that the bill be amended to reflect the recommendation of the Law Council in relation to the proposed bankruptcy amendments, has been dealt with by the government in clauses 1 and 2 of the bill before the Senate at the moment.

The second recommendation, that the bill be amended to amend the Family Law Act to include a defence of 'fleeing from family violence' to ensure that the existing and proposed offences of unlawful removal and retention of children abroad do not apply in circumstances of family violence, is dealt with in paragraph 6 of the bill as an amendment at the end of section 65Y.

Recommendation 3, that the bill be amended to amend the Family Law Act to include a defence of consent to ensure that existing and proposed offences of unlawful removal and retention of children abroad do not apply in circumstances where a written consent has not been given but where there is an oral consent in the form of a consent, is referred to in paragraphs 6, 7, 8 and 9 of the bill before the chamber.

Recommendation 4, which the committee recommended be amended to amend the Family Law Act to limit arrest powers and use of force so that they apply only to employees of the Australian Border Force that have received appropriate training—Senator Moore's already mentioned that. The bill before us, in paragraph 5, makes the provision to limit that to those who are in the Australian Border Force. Senator Moore mentions that the comment about having received appropriate training is not there. I'll leave that to the minister, but my understanding is that all relevant Australian Border Force people who are in a position to make arrests do, of course, receive appropriate training, and adding that to the bill would only be superfluous verbiage. But I suspect the minister may explain that further.

Suffice it to say that I do have great confidence in the Australian Border Force. They have done a wonderful job in recent years. They were in very difficult circumstances during the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd term of government, where there were literally thousands—indeed tens of thousands—of illegal maritime arrivals coming across the border, putting a huge strain not only on the Border Force but also on departmental officials. I've often had occasion, in my committee and particularly in estimates, to thank officers of the Department of Immigration—the Border Force people or whatever name they came under at a particular point in time—for the work they've done under very stressful and difficult conditions at a time when they were simply overwhelmed by the thousands and thousands of illegal maritime arrivals who chose to enter our country illegally, jumping the queue over others. The Border Force departmental officials did a wonderful job at the time and continue to do a great job.

This shows how committees of the Senate, when they're working constructively together, can get a unanimous report, which the government then deals with in a very serious manner. I'm pleased that all of the committee's recommendations have been accepted by the government. As a result of that, the legislation will be better than it would've been, without in any way detracting from the government's intention in its amendments to this particular legislation. I recommend to the Senate that the bill be passed.

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