The Hon Nicola Roxon MP, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Management - 10 September 2012

Federal Courts back on firm footing 

Minister for Emergency Management

10 September 2012

The federal court system will be on a stronger financial footing through increased funding and changes to fee structures.

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon announced the changes today, which were foreshadowed in the 2012 Budget.

"These measures will ensure our courts can deliver key services, including regional circuit work, which are vital for disadvantaged litigants and small businesses," Ms Roxon said.

"Funding of $38 million over four years from court fee revenue will be injected into the courts to ensure they are able to provide the services the community needs."

The Government currently only recovers around 15 per cent of the cost of running the courts and believes there should be a greater contribution from those with a greater capacity to pay who use courts regularly.

Court fees will now be structured to better reflect capacity of different litigants to pay – such as higher fees for publicly-listed companies, corporations and the Commonwealth. This will be balanced by the reintroduction of fee waivers and exemptions for disadvantaged litigants, and treating small businesses as individuals rather than corporations.

Recognising that the Commonwealth is one of the most frequent court users, government agencies will now also pay the corporations rate.

"This will encourage government agencies to actively decide whether court action is necessary, or whether alternative methods are available," Ms Roxon said.

These changes will also make it easier for people to take small claims to the Federal Magistrates Court and help consumers seek redress for small consumer credit matters.

"Other fee changes will send appropriate pricing signals that courts should not be the first port of call to resolve disputes, and take into account the resource intensive nature of some matters."

There will also be a range of fee changes for family law matters, including the divorce fee, but a wide range of waivers and deferrals will be available in certain circumstances.

The increased funding demonstrates proper support for the expanding role and workload of the Federal Magistrates Court, allows closer administrative cooperation between courts and will help transform operations by better use of e-services.

Increased funding will also be provided to the Family Court of Western Australia through these arrangements.

Putting our courts on a stronger financial footing forms part of the Government's court reform package, which also includes:

  • implementing a transparent complaints process against judicial officers
  • changing the title of the Federal Magistrates Court to better reflect its important role in the judicial system.
  • expanding the diversity judicial appointments, and
  • establishing the Military Court of Australia.

Changes to court fees will start on 1 January 2013.

Contact: Attorney-General's office 02 6277 7300 or 0409 945 476