Budget savings trigger federal courts merger

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Attorney-General George Brandis will unveil plans for the Federal Court to take over the running of the Family Court and Federal Circuit Courts as part of the Turnbull government’s court saving measures.

Already signed off by the cabinet, a new bill is expected to be introduced into parliament next month, according to The Australian.

With courts on track to blowout by about $75million in 2017-18, the new measures will save the government around $6m over four years.  The announcement comes 18 months after KPMG consultants handed Brandis a report revealing the staggering figures.

According to The Australian, a spokesperson for Brandis said any savings would be kept by the courts themselves and that their independence would remain.

Under the new system, the Federal Court will administer the payroll, communications and services including commonwealth vehicles used by judges.

When the Rudd government tried to dismantle the Federal Circuit Court (then the Federal Magistrates Court) back in 2009, many federal magistrates threatened to resign so the back offices of the Family and Federal Circuit courts were merged.  Media reports suggest that the government will allow the courts to continue to have their own budget allocations.

According to The Australian, the Family Court handled 19,650 filings, a jump of almost 10 per cent in 2013 - 14, while the Federal Circuit Court dealt with 92,000 filings, with a sharp ¬increase in migration work.  The Federal Court handled just 5000 filings, a drop of almost 14 per cent on the previous year.

While the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Courts had been pushing for an independent body to administer all three courts, the Federal Court, the most efficiently run, was against having to share any resources.  It made a surplus in 2013-14 of around $1.5m.