Law Council: Family law inquiry will fail if 'misguided by myths'

Law Council: Family law inquiry will fail if ‘misguided by myths’

Malcolm Roberts on family law
The Law Council of Australia has condemned comments by Senator Malcolm Roberts of One Nation that the family courts are contributing to family violence and called for family violence awareness training for all members of parliament.

In a Facebook Live video from last year Roberts said that while there was “no excuse for violence”, family law disputes contributed to men “lashing out”.

“When you’re a father and you can’t get access to your kids and you can’t get access to the legal system properly, what else is there to do other than check out or hurt the other person?” he said.

Arthur Moses SC, the President of the Law Council, described these remarks as “irresponsible and plain stupid”, warning they “could incite violence against partners, children or judges of those courts, or provide excuses for some men to blame anyone else but themselves for hurting a partner or child”.

“It is inappropriate to be blaming victims, the courts or judges for any person lashing out and hurting another person,” Moses said.  “Politicians must be careful not to use words that may incite those currently engaged in the system or dissatisfied with a court outcome to engage in violence.”

Moses said these dangerous sentiments – similar to those expressed by Pauline Hanson last week – will only serve to damage the government’s contentious inquiry into family law. While the Law Council supports the inquiry Moses said it needs to be “free from bias and pre-determined outcomes.”

“The inquiry will have no hope of achieving any meaningful reform and will quickly lose support if it is overshadowed by these disgraceful comments or misguided by myths. Reform has to be based on facts not slogans.”

Moses acknowledged that Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and Attorney-General Christian Porter has said Senator Pauline Hanson’s comments last week about falsely raising domestic violence issues in family cases were wrong. But he called on Scott Morrison, Porter and Committee Chair Kevin Andrews to go further.

“[They need to ] condemn these latest remarks by Senator Roberts in the strongest possible terms and ensure the Inquiry is conducted in a manner that is safe and respectful,” Moses says. “Otherwise, the situation will quickly deteriorate and this Inquiry will harm not help children, mothers and fathers.”

The Law Council recommends all parliamentarians, including those who participate in this Inquiry, be provided with family violence awareness training at the outset to help them undertake their important roles in the Inquiry and in considering any recommendations from the Inquiry.

In a separate statement regarding the inquiry, on behalf of the Law Council, Moses said he believes the parliamentary inquiry can be the catalyst to drive the holistic change that is ‘desperately needed’.

“Family breakdown is tragic and it is difficult. Family violence is horrific and inexcusable. But it is an awful reality,” he said. “Family law is one of the issues raised most often in parliamentarians’ offices around the country. One of the parliament’s most important roles is to ensure protections are in place for children, women and men who experience this.”

While the family law system is a critical piece of social infrastructure Moses says it has been broken for some time.

“Underfunding and under-resourcing by successive governments has resulted in case backlogs and long delays for families,” he said. “Systemic failures plague the system. Children and victims of family violence are slipping through the cracks. This cannot continue.”

Family violence experts, family lawyers, members of the judiciary and politicians have derided Pauline Hanson’s inflammatory comments last week that women fabricate domestic violence to block their ex-partners from seeing their children.

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