Senate debates

Tuesday, 3 May 2016


Family Law

10:14 pm

Photo of John MadiganJohn Madigan (Victoria, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

Thirteen years ago, this parliament recognised the need for a completely fresh approach to family separation. It recommended a new, non-adversarial system to protect hundreds of thousands of Australian kids and their families from the harm caused by our family courts and adversarial legal system.

Three months ago, the Senate passed a motion calling upon the government to recognize that thousands of our children continue to be harmed by the slow, unaffordable and adversarial system that remains in place to this day. What has the government done in those three months while thousands more children have suffered? Nothing. From the Attorney-General, silence—no response to the Senate, no response to my letters and, most importantly, no answer for the children and families who continue to suffer from a system that is not fit for purpose.

And what has the opposition done? Nothing. In fact, their stated policy remains that our family law system generally operates effectively. Millions of Australians will soon be at the ballot box to vote on whether they agree with that extraordinary statement. And the Greens? Well, they are quite vocal enough when they want to be but, when it comes to the lifelong harm caused to thousands of Aussie kids, they are silent too.

Perhaps it is too much to expect of the major parties, stacked as they are with former lawyers. After all, one should not be asking a fox to redesign the henhouse. But Australia deserves better. Our children deserve better. Let's for once put aside the politics of this place. Please, go back to your electorates, every one of you, and listen, as I and my fellow independents have done, to the voices of the people, not to angry men, bitter women or any of the usual cliches that have allowed people in this place to ignore this issue for 13 years and more but to ordinary Australian mothers and fathers, grandparents, children, aunts and uncles—men, women and children who suffer daily because this place does not care enough to do something to help them and their kids, the families of our future.

I have just spent the last two hours going through the budget and looking for the government's investment in the Family Court of Australia, where the future of vulnerable children is decided. I could find nothing. I could find nothing in the budget. I could find no mention of the Family Court in the post-budget press release. What I did see was an allocation of $160 million for the plebiscite on same-sex marriage. Whilst I welcome a plebiscite, I am appalled and saddened at the deep harm being done to Australian heterosexual families because the Family Court receives no attention whatsoever. I am appalled and saddened that the deep harm being done by the Family Court to Australian children receives no attention whatsoever. And I am appalled and saddened by the government's abandonment of this issue and these people. I am appalled and saddened at the waste the Family Court continues to perpetrate on this country, the heartache and financial ruin it perpetrates on Australian families and the cost to our services if only because the government was not brave enough and visionary enough to tackle this problem.

Senate adjourned at 22:18