This week Senator Pauline Hanson rose in the Senate to speak to the Family Law Amendment Bill 2023. As a pivotal player in the discussions and formation of this legislation, her insights offer an in-depth understanding of the changes this bill seeks to bring and the concerns surrounding them.
Hanson's Support and its Roots
Pauline Hanson, as the deputy chair of the Joint Select Committee on Australia’s family law system, has played a significant role in this legislation. Some of the recommendations she championed have been reflected in the bill. Other important perspectives of One Nation have not been reflected. These changes have been a long-time advocacy point for her, emphasising the paramount importance of children's best interests in family law cases.
Controversy Over Shared Parental Responsibility
One of the major points of contention One Nation highlights is the removal of the presumption of shared parental responsibility. Introduced in 2006, this presumption was intended to underline that parents share equal responsibility for their child's care. It was never about 'equal time' but rather the commitment and responsibility shared between parents. Hanson fears that by removing this, the legislation might unintentionally bias the system further.
Drawing on the words of family court veterans like Professor Richard Chisolm and Emeritus Professor Patrick Parkinson, Hanson underscores their concerns about rolling back the clock to when mothers were primarily considered the primary caregivers after separation. Parkinson particularly mentioned this change as a "fundamental shift" in the family law system's underlying values.
Addressing Biases Against Fathers
Pauline Hanson's speech emphasised a potential systemic bias against fathers. She cites studies and evidence indicating that fathers often face challenges in family court, with many being concerned about their children's safety in shared parenting arrangements. The removal of shared parental responsibility, Hanson argues, will amplify these biases.
Child's Wishes and Preventing System Manipulation
One of the commendable points of the bill, according to Hanson, is its focus on a child's wishes. Independent Child Lawyers (ICLs) will now be required to learn and advocate for these wishes, ensuring that children have a voice in the court proceedings. However, this also demands specialised training for ICLs to accurately represent children, sometimes as young as five.
Another supported aspect is the mechanism to prevent the misuse of the family law system, especially during bitter separations. But again, Senator Hanson emphasises the need for fairness in its application, ensuring both mothers and fathers are treated equitably.
Recommendations for the Child Support System
While many of Hanson's proposals are present in the bill, she expresses disappointment regarding the child support system reforms. Highlighting Professor Parkinson's observations on the existing system's "perverse incentives", Hanson lists her recommendations. From assessing salaries based on a 38-hour working week to having child support payments reviewed by Services Australia, these changes aim for a fairer system that genuinely supports children.
A Call for Fairness
Pauline Hanson's speech underscores her commitment to fairness in Australia's family law system. She believes in a system that doesn't discriminate based on gender, race, or religion. The evidence collected during the joint select committee inquiry, she feels, should have paved the way for reforms that leaned into justice and fairness.
In concluding her speech, Pauline Hanson expresses her deep sympathies for families navigating this system and promises to continue fighting for genuine reform in Australia’s family law system.
In summary, the Family Law Amendment Bill 2023 brings forth several changes and revisions that can significantly impact Australian families. Through Pauline Hanson's perspective, we gain a deeper understanding of the implications of these changes and the need for continuous scrutiny and advocacy for a fair system.