CMC Program - Update May 2013

The Marriage Law and Celebrant Section is preparing for the passing of the Marriage Amendment Bills.

If these Bills do pass, the Marriage Law and Celebrant Section has outlined the process for the  Proposed Fee Payment Requirements which the Celebrants and Celebrations Network published in What's New on the 22nd March 2013.

A reminder:

What looks like simple ‘cost recovery’ will ONLY leave approx $200,000 in the Attorney-General’s Department’s budget for all the legal work related to the Marriage Act 1961. This is a miniscule amount for such an important national over-sighting function.

  • The remainder of $1.8 million (PLUS $0.6 million extra) is to be recovered by independent Commonwealth Celebrants with the annual registration fee as proposed by these Bills.

Cost recovery and the fees and charges outlined in the Bill will only apply to the third group Subdivision C #. The purpose of the Bill is to cost-recover the regulation of Commonwealth-registered celebrants.

In relation to the Marriage Amendment Bills before the Senate some points to consider

  1. There are TWO main goals here that are being confused as ONE.

    How to reduce the number of Commonwealth Appointed Marriage Celebrants as there are now too many to match the relatively steady level of marriages available in Australia, and the Government continues to appoint more at the rate of 1000 every two years?
  1. 2.How to ensure Commonwealth Appointed Marriage Celebrants, are meeting the requirements of the Marriage Actin delivering marriage services on behalf of the government and providing a professional level of service (ie celebrants who are not employed or auspiced by an organisation such as church or registry office, as are the other two Subdivisions A and B)?
  1. And there are TWO assumptions associated with the way the Bills are to operate:

    1. That a celebrant who is doing a lot of weddings = a very good professional marriage celebrant

    2. That a celebrant who can afford the fee = a celebrant who is doing a lot of weddings = good celebrant

    Neither are true.1. Whilst more work opportunities, are clearly a factor in the celebrants ability to  maintain and improve their professional skills, in a highly competitive environment the reverse may be the case.
    ie the celebrant does a lot of weddings because they undercut others and cut corners to get the work. Repeat business with weddings is generally not an issue for a decade or more!
  1. 2. There are many celebrants with income from other employment, super-packages, pensions or private wealth with which to subside the fee. Thus ability to pay the fee bears NO relationship with the celebrant's performance.
  1. The government CLAIMS these Marriage Amendment Bills are designed to achieve B (improve compliance & professional performance of celebrants) when in fact these Bills are simply designed to do A (cut numbers).

  2. CoCA argues that simply applying an annual fee will not remove non-complaint celebrants, UNLESS the Department is prepared to do what it already has the power to do, but seems reluctant to enact ##

THEREFORE NOT achieve the goals it claims to be the reason for the fee

BUT will UNFAIRLY remove complaint celebrants who are delivering high quality ceremonies, but not in sufficient numbers, through no fault of their own, to be able to afford the fee.

  1. CoCA argues that the CAUSE is not being addressed ie Too many celebrants are being appointed by the government for a service that it has a responsibility to ensure is delivered in the best possible way for the public good.

    SIMPLE MATHS shows each INDEPENDENT celebrant would need 100 weddings at $500 to bring in a GROSS income of $50,000. Depending on the location and level of service, after all capital and ongoing costs are paid may end up with a net TAXABLE income of $25,000 to $30000.

Currently only 2% of celebrants are able to make this relatively low level wage for the professional services being offered.

Given the annual number of weddings in Australia is around 120,000, let's say hypothetically EVEN IF commonwealth celebrants were able to do ALL the weddings, for all to average a TAXABLE income of $25,000 to $30000 the country would

Currently the average is 7 weddings per celebrant pa = $3,500 GROSS annual income (below the tax threshold).

  1. CoCA argues "OPEN MARKET' regulation is NOT appropriate for a Service that is a once in a lifetime event. (even if people remarry each other, their circumstances are different and so a different style of ceremony is required).

  2. CoCA argues this system of appointment is FLAWED and these Bills will perpetuate an ONGOING problem of insufficient work for large numbers of celebrants, unless numbers are set at a level to match the sector’s needs.

  3. CoCA argues a COMBINATION of Competition and Needs based approach is needed.
  1. 1. A LIMIT TO CELEBRANT NUMBERS such that celebrants have access to a number of weddings on average that would cover their of pocket expenses and allow income to cover the celebrant's time (ie an hourly rate) eg 25 weddings pa = $12,500 pa

    2. A system of APPOINTMENTS based upon people competing for the vacancies in a region on a 5 year cycle, such that the BEST person by independent assessment is chosen. = COMPETITION.

    3. Once appointed, the pool of celebrants still will need to COMPETE for the available work, unlike state celebrants who are guaranteed the available work due to their position in a church or registry office.

Foot Notes
# The Marriage Act establishes three categories of celebrants who are authorised to solemnise marriages under Australian law as follows:

  • Ministers of religion of a recognised denomination, proclaimed under section 26 of the Act, who are nominated by their denomination and registered and regulated by state and territory Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages. Part IV Division 1 Subdivision A
  • State and Territory Officers who are authorised to perform marriages as part of their duties and are registered and regulated by state and territory Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Part IV Division. 1 Subdivision B and
  • Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrants who are authorised under the Marriage Celebrants Program to perform marriages. This group includes civil celebrants and celebrants who are ministers of religion whose denomination is not proclaimed under section 26 of the Act. Part IV Division 1 Subdivision C

## It is understood that 3000 celebrants have not completed their OPD requirements

From Rona Goold TCN Inc Delegate to CoCA