Australian politician Pauline Hanson has said that there have been cases of parents using false domestic violence claims to gain access to their children after separation.
“I’m hearing of too many cases where parents are using domestic violence to stop the other parent from seeing their children,” the One Nation leader said on ABC Radio’s RN Breakfast show early Sept. 18. “Perjury is in our system, but they’re not charged with perjury.”
Hanson’s comments come as a special committee is to be set up to carry out a year-long joint parliamentary inquiry into the family law system. Liberal Party MP Kevin Andrews will lead the inquiry, with Hanson as co-chair in the effort.
The committee will investigate various areas (pdf), including court time frames and costs, concerns regarding onuses of proof required for granting apprehended violence orders, custody arrangements, and child support.
Pressed For Evidence
When ABC Radio’s Hamish Macdonald asked Hanson about what evidence she had regarding false claims of domestic violence being used in the courts, Hanson cited her own personal experience of what happened with her son. She also said there are cases she was familiar with but could not talk about them.
“Leave it up to the people to have their say,” she said. “When it’s done, the inquiry before the committee, it’ll be put on Hansard.”
Hanson also suggested that Macdonald speak to some men’s groups and organizations “who will back it up because they are feeling the effects of it.”
“This comes across our desk on a weekly basis, if not on a daily basis sometimes, of people phoning up [about] how unjust the system is,” she told Macdonald. “Why do you think we’ve got three men suiciding a day and one woman murdered a week?”
Support for Split Custody
The Queensland senator insisted she was not siding with men or women in family court disputes, but wanted to make sure that children have access to both parents if they are fit.
“I think that if you can have joint custody of the children prior to separation, why shouldn’t you afterwards—unless there [is] drug and alcohol abuse, criminal offense, or a domestic violence order prior to separation,” Hanson told ABC Radio.
She expressed that her comments about false domestic violence claims are not directed at those who are legitimately experiencing issues of domestic violence and raising such issues in the family courts.
However, she reiterated the message, “Don’t throw domestic violence orders against your ex-partners just to further your case or get control of the children … there are people out there who are nothing but liars and will use that in the court system.”
Hanson told ABC Radio one change she wanted to see through the inquiry: “If I’m actually going to be upfront and say what I want to be looked at, [then it is that] if people make false allegations, you’re going to be held responsible for it.”
Joint Parliamentary Inquiry
In an announcement on Sept. 17, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the inquiry would assess “whether the current system, which is intended to support parents and children during the end of a relationship, is fit for purpose.”
“We want to ensure families can resolve issues as quickly and fairly as possible, so everyone can move on with their lives,” Morrison said. “This inquiry will allow the parliament to hear directly from families and listen to them as they give their accounts of how the family law system has been impacting them and how it interacts with the child support system.”
The government is also considering recommendations from the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) report into family law, released in April, “and will respond in full to all of those recommendations relating to the design of multiple important provisions in the Family Law Act 1975,” Morrison’s statement read.
Queensland Women’s Legal Service chief executive Angela Lynch expressed resistance to the newly-announced inquiry.
“There’s little doubt that there are complex issues in this system and that there are real systemic failings, but this is the umpteenth review of this system,” she told ABC News, citing the ALRC review that culminated in 60 recommendations to the government earlier this year, as well as two previous inquiries.
“[The government] should be really listening to domestic violence groups.
“It seems that this review was set up without consultation [with] domestic violence group[s],” Lynch said. “Fifty to 85 percent of matters in the family law courts involve a family history of domestic violence. You cannot make decisions in this system without seriously consulting with the experts in domestic violence, and that’s what we’re calling on the government to do.”
Of the ALRC inquiry, Hanson commented to reporters, “ALRC never gave the people a real voice.” She said the new joint parliamentary review would provide a more holistic assessment across all aspects of family law.
‘The Family Law System is Totally Broken’
Professor Augusto Zimmermann, head of law at Sheridan College in Perth and a former member of the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia until 2017, said that he has received numerous accounts from non-custodial parents who he believes have been wrongly accused of child abuse and neglect.
“Some of them lost access to their children entirely due to these false accusations,” Zimmermann told The Epoch Times. “This is so even after the Department of Child Protection completely cleared them of any wrongdoing.”
“Indeed, making a false allegation of child abuse has now become a common strategy when it comes to family law litigation. It is regularly used to alienate an innocent parent from their children,” Zimmermann added.
Obtaining undue financial advantage is considered to be one of the motivations behind parental alienation.
“The more a single parent can restrict the other parent’s access to the children, the more financial support they receive from the alienated parent and the government,” Zimmermann said. “The family law system is totally broken and it urgently needs to be fixed.”
Epoch Times reporter Wade Zhou and AAP contributed to this report.