Senator Penny Wright seeks clarity around the Coalition's $30m funding cut to the Family Court of Australia, announced two days before the 2013 Federal election.
Senator WRIGHT: I wanted clarification following on from some questions I asked in October about funding. Two days before the election, then shadow Treasurer Hockey announced a cut of $30 million over the forward estimates, with the description of 'streamlined Family Court processes', which the government was proposing to make. During the October estimates hearing I asked if you had any further information about the cut, and the answer was no. Then the MYEFO figures, which were released in December 2013, featured no savings measure in relation to the Family Court apart from a cut of $1.9 million over the forward estimates, with the description of 'reform of Australia's protection status determination system - reversal'. I am interesting in clarifying whether that means the cut of $30 million to the Family Court that was previously announced and outlined in the government's pre-election savings document will not occur?
Senator Brandis: That is a matter for consideration in the budget process.
Senator WRIGHT: So there is no further information about that?
Senator Brandis: Because the previous Labor government left the country bankrupt and we have had to find savings across all departments and have quarantined only two-namely, the Department of Defence and medical research-we just have to find cuts and savings everywhere. The budget, as you know, is being prepared at the moment. It is the end of February and it is in a reasonably advanced state of preparation. All of these matters are ones for consideration in the budget process.
Senator WRIGHT: Mr Foster or Mr Harriott, have you had any discussions with government since October about the foreshadowed $30 million cut and what the implications of a cut like that would be on the Family Court?
Mr R Foster: Not directly, in relation to the $30 million.
Senator WRIGHT: Mr Harriott?
Mr Harriott: No.
Senator Brandis: I have had a conversation with the chief justice.
Senator WRIGHT: That was a figure that was announced then, so that is one of the only figures-and the $1.9 million-that were specifically referred to in the MYEFO figures. Is it the case then that it is potentially in the budget, and then, after the budget is announced, cuts of some magnitude may be announced? Would they take effect from the first year of the forward estimates? Is that potentially what could happen? I am just trying to work it out. Obviously concern has been raised and now people are wondering.
Senator Brandis: I do not think I can really add to my earlier answer. This is a matter that is being considered in the budget process. The budget will be delivered on 13 May, I think it is, and the government will be making some very tough decisions because, having inherited a nation left bankrupt by the previous government, we were elected among other things to repair that budget emergency. There just is not as much money was we would like there to be, because of the wasteful policies of the previous government.