Saturday, 24 May 2008

Commonwealth now pushing forward with de facto property reform

According to The Australian, the Commonwealth, under Attorney-General Robert McClelland, is now pushing ahead with property reforms so that de facto property matters (including same sex couples) are dealt with in the Family Court and Federal Magistrates Court.

The Australian, it might be noted has got it wrong. It is not childless couples only who cannot access the Family Court now. Any de facto couples, who are arguing about property matters cannot now bring their property matters to the Family Court, irrespective of whether they have children.

The problem will be to see whether it actually happens. John Howard had previously also announced this change, but like Brer Bear got caught with the tar baby.

John Howard proposed to remove the current two tier property scheme ie married couples under the Family Law Act and non-married couples under State and Territory legislation. However, he proposed that there be a different two tier scheme- married and heterosexual couples under the Family Law Act, but same sex couples arguing over property would remain in the State and Territory jurisdiction.

To enable his scheme to get up, Howard needed the co-operation of the States. That just didn't happen. Some States, such as NSW and Queensland grumbled about the unfairness of it all, but passed legislation to allow half the scheme (ie for heterosexual couples) to start, but South Australia and Western Australia just said no. So there it has sat, in limbo till now.

The real test for Robert McClelland will be herding the cats and persuade all the States to go along with one national scheme. Let's see how it unfolds.

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