Deregistration for the non-payment of annual fee

Only Subdivision C and D marriage celebrants (Commonwealth) are subject to an annual registration fee, however Subdivisions A (Ministers of Recognised Religions) and B (Marriage Officers in State and Territoty BDMs) are not. So the latter groups are not subject to de-registration on the basis of non-payment fo a fee.

Equality for Celebrants views this as unfair that all marriage celebrants are not held accountable with the same basic requirements.

Section 39FB outlines the consequences of the non-payment

The Register must deregister the marriage celebrant at some stage. Currently only 14 days is given.

However it appears the Registrar does have discretion as to how much time the Registrar decides before the derigstration comes into force.

Instead of 2 weeks, why could this not be 6 months?

The Act implies an appeal process - see Section 34 but in fact  the AAT cannot reverse the de-registration process.

However the AAT may be able to put a Stay Order in place to extend the time before the de-registration comes into effect - see here.

Why are only Subdivision C and D subject to this fee?

The rationale is that the government needs to provide staff  to regulate Commonwealth marriage celebrants as they are authorised as individuals who are not part of an organisational structure, such as a recognised religion or a state government body.

However the need for such regulation has not been demonstrated on the basis of problems with

  1. the vailidity of marriages performed by Commonwealth marriage celebrants - extemely rare as Section 48 covers the couple - if they meet all the legal requirements to be married - from any mistakes the celebrant may make, or
  2. the number of complaints about them currrently at aorund 0.03% of the 80,000 marriages pa performed by Commonwealth marriage celebrants.

Regardless of the above, the impact of the failure to pay the annual fee is disproportionate to the "offence" especially given that human and systems error occur frequently.

For example, entering 22400 instead of 24000 on the key pad. One celebrant was distracted when paying the fee, so was $16 short. This celebrant was sent a de-registration noitce, and it was only when the AAT stay was put in place that the Department allowed the celebrant to pay the full amount. The Department's argument was that the celebrant did not pay the fee - the celebrant's was that the pay was paid, but not the correct amount.

Arguments against the current legistration are that this provision of the Act
  • lacks natural justice
  • no other profession has a one strike and you are out for the non-payment of one administrative fee
  • the fee is unfair as it is not applied to all marriage celebrants
  • affects the marrying public who often spend considerable time choosing and working with a specific celebrant for their personalised marriage ceremony.
  • a waste of other celebrants fees for the MLCS to do all the follow up etc. for two months when a simple one-off fine for the first default or substantial late fee(eg equivalent to the application fee (eg $600 + the fee) would be simpler, more efficient and not a cost burden on thos