Steven Marshall eases South Australia Covid lockdown, saying one person lied to contact tracers – live news

By Calla Wahlquist (now), Mostafa Rachwani and Matilda Boseley (earlier)


Parliamentary inquiry into the family court didn't consider a letter from the chief justice

A letter from the chief justice of the family court, who previously noted a lack of consultation and opposition among fellow judges to a major reform of his jurisdiction, was not considered by a senate committee ahead of its decision to recommend the overhaul.

The federal government proposed a merger of the family and federal circuit courts in 2018, amid long-held concerns about the backlog of family law cases. There has been widespread opposition to the changes, as they could effectively abolish the family court.

Chief Justice William Alstergren, who is also chief judge of the federal circuit court, wrote to the committee on 12 November. Senior members of the courts who were not judges had given evidence to the committee about a week earlier about the benefits the reforms could have.

But Alstergren’s letter, which has not been made public, was not provided to the committee until today — the same date the committee’s report was due — meaning it could not be considered.

The only details published about the letter were contained in questions on notice to the court released to Greens senator Lidia Thorpe. The court’s answers noted that the letter relied upon a previous submission made in 2018. It reads:

Ordinarily, major reform to the structure of courts and important law reform is the subject of significant consultation, including with judges, prior to the introduction of legislation to Parliament.

A majority of judges support the continuation of the current Court as a superior court of record hearing the most complex family law cases.

The Senate committee recommended the bill regarding the reforms be passed. But half the committee’s members wrote dissenting opinions.The Labor senators dissension noted concern that Alstergren’s letter and other questions on notice were not considered. Thorpe also dissented.The committee said the government should strongly consider including in the bill a requirement that a minimum of 25 judges be appointed to the higher tier of the new court.

It noted that further reform could be considered after the bill is passed. The government is yet to respond to a Australian Law Reform Commission report into the sector that was published in 2018, and a joint select committee on Australia’s family law system, which was established after lobbying by Senator Pauline Hanson on behalf of men’s rights groups, is due to report in February.



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Free trade and access to vaccines on the APEC agenda this weekend, says PM

Scott Morrison says equitable access to vaccines and free trade will be among his key priorities when the prime minister joins two global summits by videolink over the weekend.

Morrison, who remains in isolation following his trip to Tokyo earlier this week, is due to join the Apec virtual leaders’ meeting tonight and then the G20 virtual summit on Saturday and Sunday.

In a statement, Morrison said he looked forward to both events as they were an “an opportunity to work collaboratively with international partners to set a constructive pathway to recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic”.

Key to this, is a vaccine ensuring equitable access to safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. We will also discuss enabling trade and open markets through a multilateral trading system, to strengthen supply chains, that will also help Australia’s economic recovery.

Morrison — who last year famously warned against any “any reflex towards a negative globalism” — added:

This year — as we respond to and recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever to demonstrate our commitment to cooperation and the value of multilateral organisations.