Hanson law review

No one could accuse Pauline Hanson of being a fair-weather critic of the Family Court.

For the past 20 years, she has agitated for an inquiry into family law. This week, finally, she got her wish. The One Nation leader will co-chair a joint parliamentary inquiry into Australia’s family law system, appointed by Scott Morrison alongside Liberal MP Kevin Andrews.

In her parliamentary career, Hanson has never attempted to hide her views about this system: she considers it stacked against men. “There are people out there who are nothing but liars and will use that in the court system,” she said this week on RN Breakfast.

“You’re saying, effectively,” host Hamish Macdonald asked her, “that mothers are going into the Family Court and making up accusations of domestic violence…”

“I am,” she replied.

Kevin Andrews, too, has spoken openly, and frequently, to his beliefs on families – his concerns about no-fault divorce, children growing up in single-parent households and the “unstable” nature of unmarried couples. He’s argued the collapse of marriage looms as a greater threat than the global financial crisis. His idea to solve it was to offer $200 to every couple for marriage counselling.

Inquiries into the troubled family law system have become a fixture in recent years. One was launched in parliament in March 2017 to investigate how to better protect those affected by family violence. An Australian Law Reform Commission review followed just two months later.

But Hanson didn’t just want an inquiry into the family law system. If she did, she would have used her considerable power in the senate to push the Morrison government to act on the 33 recommendations made by the first parliamentary inquiry, or the further 60 recommendations made by the ALRC. None of which have been acknowledged or actioned.

No, Pauline Hanson wanted an inquiry she could shape and steer. That could investigate what she believes is the key issue plaguing the Family Court: that women are lying to keep children away from their fathers.

No research backs up her claim that this is widespread. Asked for evidence, she offers only personal anecdotes, men who’ve called up her office or, she says, “from my own personal experience of what happened with my son”.

Scott Morrison says this inquiry “isn’t about picking sides”. He says it’s about “listening to Australians”.

But a government that truly wanted to improve the system wouldn’t go inquiry shopping. Morrison is merely hoping to satiate a dogged senator. And to do so he is happy to strand untold families in the broken Family Court system for yet another year.

“It’s not the Pauline Hanson inquiry,” the One Nation leader told reporters on Tuesday, “this is the Australian people’s inquiry.”

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Sep 21, 2019 as "Hanson law review".

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