Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Today by Elle Hardy

Hanson family values
The family law inquiry is shaping up to be an exercise in bad faith

One Nation Leader Pauline Hanson. Source: Twitter

Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday announced yet another inquiry into the family law system, chaired by conservative MP Kevin Andrews – who has argued that the greatest threat facing Western civilisation is not terrorism or climate change but the divorce rate – and deputy-chaired by One Nation Leader Pauline Hanson.

The government is believed to have bowed to pressure from Hanson, who has been arguing that the family law system is biased towards women, and campaigning for changes to child custody and domestic violence laws since she returned to the Senate in 2016.

In what is shaping up to be an inquiry in name only, the terms of reference will include the legal standards for domestic violence orders and apprehended violence orders, the powers to ensure truthful evidence, the financial costs to families, the impact of Family Court process on children, and issues that arise for grandparents.

Defending the inquiry in an interview on RN Breakfast, Hanson said that she was speaking for “the people”, and that she would not be “shut down”. Referring to “false” claims of domestic violence in family law cases, Hanson told host Hamish Macdonald: “There are people out there who are nothing but liars and will use that in the court system. You can’t defend these people and I will not defend them.” Beyond referring vaguely to “cases” and her own “personal experience” of her son’s custody battles, Hanson was not able to cite specific evidence for these claims.

In response to the announcement, anti-domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty did not hold back on ABC Melbourne, where she called on the major parties to block the inquiry.

“If there is something that is making me even more angry it is this. It is this decision. It is completely unacceptable for us to have another inquiry. We have had multiple inquiries about the failings of the family law system … There has been a law reform commission inquiry with 60 recommendations presented to the government earlier this year; not one has been acknowledged or enforced … We need to start investing in the court system that is broken, overwhelmed and failing. It is continuing to put families and in particular children in danger.”

Batty’s righteous anger needs to be taken as more than a soundbite. Those who disagree with Hanson and her toxic men’s rights allies need to put Batty’s words into action. After all, we already know that Hanson, in her role as deputy chair of the inquiry, is not predisposed to giving victims, such as Batty, or experts on gendered violence a fair hearing.

But this matter goes beyond Hanson’s fringe beliefs. By agreeing to hold the inquiry in the first place, the Morrison government has sided yet again with those who question empirical evidence: we’ve seen it with climate science, and Barnaby Joyce’s interventions in the NSW abortion debate; now, it would seem, the work of anti–family violence advocates is to be undermined.

The Greens were the first to come out and say that they would not support the inquiry, with spokesperson for women Larissa Waters declaring that it is a “sop to One Nation”, and wondering what has been “promised in return”.

“What we won’t support is an inquiry stacked with extremists that have pre-determined, non-expert opinions on the gendered drivers of violence against women and their children. This whole inquiry is a dangerous invitation to continue victim shaming, blaming and denial.”

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese followed, indicating that Labor would not support the inquiry either, saying that his party was not consulted about the terms of reference, and that he was surprised that Hanson would be the deputy chair.

He described as “unacceptable” Hanson’s suggestions that women make up domestic violence claims to win custody in many cases, saying that “it would appear from those comments that Pauline Hanson has already judged what that evidence is … Saying that people do not tell the truth about family violence is a real concern given the prime minister’s deal to make her co-chair.”

The Centre Alliance’s Rex Patrick this afternoon stated that his party will support the inquiry, meaning that the motion will pass.

This inquiry is shaping up to be an exercise in bad faith: it is contrary to all evidence, likely to cause harm, and will take place in an arena that is rigged. Hanson has already told us exactly what she believes, and it should not be dignified by a parliamentary inquiry.

“Former environment minister Josh Frydenberg’s rejection of the Lord Howe Island windfarm is inconsistent with many other environmental approvals where there was strong departmental advice about unavoidable risks to internationally protected places and wildlife.”

The Australian Conservation Foundation’s nature campaign manager, Basha Stasak, responds to documents received under freedom of information showing that former environment minister Josh Frydenberg took the unusual step of overruling his department to block Lord Howe Island wind turbines.

“I’ve always treated people with respect.”

Despite allegations of the contrary, union boss John Setka denies that he intimidated crossbenchers Rex Patrick and Jacqui Lambie in relation to their vote on the ensuring integrity bill. Setka also said he has no reason to step down from his position as Victorian state secretary of the CFMEU.

Return to Timor-Leste
Twenty years after Timor-Leste’s vote for independence, the country’s relationship with Australia remains fraught. John Martinkus on what happened after the ballot and what is happening now.

The number of unemployed Australians, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ latest seasonally adjusted estimate. This is an increase of around 46,000 since the beginning of this year – and at 5.2 per cent it’s considerably higher than the United States (3.7 per cent), New Zealand (3.9 per cent) and Britain (3.9 per cent).

The ACCC is seeking approval from Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to conduct another inquiry into banks after persistent complaints that consumers are not being treated fairly.

The list

“Even to those with personal or anecdotal experience of it – which, statistically, is pretty much everyone – the sheer scale of the mental illness problem can be as bewildering as the variety of suffering it causes. One in five Australians aged 16 to 85 experiences some form of mental illness every year … Victoria Police assistant commissioner Glenn Weir told the inquiry that police now attend a mental health incident every 12 minutes.”

“Stories about distressed fathers who’ve lost access to their children are legion … Typically, these stories have two villains: the Family Court, which is in the thrall of the feminist lobby, and the vindictive mothers who will do anything to prevent a dad from seeing his children. Fathers’ rights groups have been cultivating this narrative for decades … Forensic psychiatrist Carolyn Quadrio, a medico-legal expert on domestic violence and child abuse, says this popular belief is a myth.”

“Albanese’s first job is to regroup and rebuild a shattered Labor Party. Morrison is aiming to make that harder and ensure the main response to Albanese’s first months in leadership is disappointment. With political reality seeping into Labor, the Morrison government is pushing forward a barrage of what Albanese has termed ‘wedgislation’. Already there are accusations from within opposition ranks that they are acquiescing to it too readily.” 

Elle Hardy

Elle Hardy is an Australian journalist based in the United States. She can be found at



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