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Added 23 November, 2011, 02:42 AM
Author: Secretary SPCA  


Stronger protection on family violence

In a fiery sitting cut short by a despicable Government's cancellation of any debate yesterday and forcing a vote on the papers the Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2011 passed after amendments by the coalition and Greens were defeated, with minor amendments by the government agreed. Liberal senator Ian MacDonald had the fortitude to continue to interject asking for debate on the bill as well as senators to come to the house and explain the amendments. It was a dark day for Australian politics where proper debate was non existent and rushed through family laws will take effect almost immediately. in an unprecedented move the Government allowed existing cases to use the new legislation.

THE safety of children in broken homes will come ahead of a parent's relationship with them in cases of violence and abuse after new laws passed parliament. The government has made changes to family laws compelling family law courts to consider protecting a child above custody rights.

The law rolls back reforms made under the Howard government that encouraged shared parenting responsibilities. The legislation also aims to change the definition of family violence and abuse under the act to include exposure to threatening behaviour, including assault, sexual abuse and neglect.

It will improve a court's access to evidence of family violence and make it easier for child protection authorities to participate in family law proceedings.

Wayne Butler, Executive Secretary of the Shared Parenting Council said

This particular provision for carte blanch protection of authorities is just another of a number of provisions that have not been carefully thought through.

Immunity from prosecution for any officer or entity (including the Commonwealth, State or a Territory) would remove the right to seek justice and compensation for harm caused with deliberate intent, or though abhorrent, mischievous, negligent or incompetent behaviour. Welfare and child protection officers and their services delivery have been known to be onesided Rather than extend their services equally to both parties of the marriage entity, welfare officers tend to side with one parent and run their advocacy through reports and court appearances. A separating parent who takes the children will be given preferential treatment to the non-custodial / non-residential parent.

As an example, the matter of the Russell Wood case in the Family Court of Western Australia in 2006, was raised as a grievance in the Western Australian State Parliament time due to the then child protection authorities (DCD) keeping the fathers children at bay in foster care for 18 months to deny the children re-unification and a proper relationship. On obtaining the desired court order to send the children overseas, the DCD then offloaded the children into the care of the father for several weeks, that is, their child protection concerns evaporated and the father was deemed to be safe once their desired outcome had been engineered.

The father should have received compensation and the authorities involved should have faced disciplinary action. Avenues for redress for parents to whom natural justice has been denied should not be extinguished. Nor should immunity from prosecution or cost orders signal to persons in authority that they are beyond reproach and above the law.

Court appointed expert psychologists are often reported to their registration boards for alleged misconduct by parents or significant others. The SPCA has heard many allegations over the years including bias, confirmatory bias, siding with one parents wishes, extortion of monies with demands for thousands of additional dollars from parents before proceeding to read material that the court had already required the Expert to read under the court-ordered terms of reference for the Experts investigation.

This provision leaves no redress for cases where the child welfare authorities have acted improperly. Where officers have removed one parent from the lives of children they should not be able to escape possible prosecution where actions have been inappropriate.

Other provisions equally ill thought out have passed and the brunt of sorting the mess out will not be with politicians who were MOST notably absent from any debate (Only but will be the Federal Magistrates and Family Court Judiciary and the Local Magistrates once the definitions are added to State legislation.

Those parents with current cases should do well to look closely at the new legislation as it could have a material affect on existing matters. The legislation has a sliding scale commencement date and optional six month window before it takes effect
Tonight the Senate passed the Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2011.

Labor senator Trish Crossin told the chamber said

The family law system doesn't adequately protect children. It's truly concerning that the family law system is failing our children.

The federal government continued to support shared care but not at the expense of a child's safety.

Opposition legal affairs spokesman George Brandis said

The coalition didn't support the bill in its current form although it supports the ostensible aim of protecting children.
He defended the Howard government's shared parenting reforms from harsh criticism, saying they had been highly successful.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said

The safety of children was paramount. I have reservations about the bill in its current form because of unintended consequences.

I'm concerned the bill overreaches and is fundamentally flawed.

Liberal Senator Brett Mason in the chamber said

Family law matters were emotionally charged complex disputes.

Shared care was an important idea to strive for. This bill is a rollback of the shared care reforms.

This bill tips the scale back towards hell.
Senator Mason said changes to the meaning of violence trivialised the definition. He said children need to be protected from false allegations of sex abuse by one parent to another. Australian Greens senator Rachel Siewert told the chamber her party had long been concerned about the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility. She said children had been turned into a commodity under the Howard government's reforms.

Australian Greens senator Rachel Siewert said

We believe this has put many children and their families in dangerous situations.
She said the changes undid some of the "mistakes of the Howard government". Coalition senators unsuccessfully sought to continue debate on the bill, arguing it was too important to guillotine debate. The Greens amendments were all defeated which included the roll back of Shared Parental Responsibility. The Government stopped any and all debate on the Bill and interestingly when the numerous divisions were called only 69 Senators attended. During the fiery opening only about 15 Senators were in the chamber.

In a fiery conclusion Liberal senator Ian Macdonald accused Labor senator Jacinta Collins of reading his notes during a vote, when the parties swapped sides.

Deputy Senate president Stephen Parry said he would refer the matter to President of the Senate John Hogg for advice despite the protestations of Senator Kate Lundy, who said the allegation was "utterly false" and "absolutely without basis".

The Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2011 passed after amendments by the coalition and Greens were defeated, with minor amendments by the government agreed

Partial source News.Com



Attachment
Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2011 - The final draft that went to the Senate
» Download: Family+Law+Amendment+(Family+Violence)+Bill+2010+-+Exposure+Draft+-+Final+version.pdf (265 Kb, 49766 downloads so far)
Commencement Dates

1. Sections 1 to 3 and anything in this Act not elsewhere covered by this table

The day this Act receives the Royal Assent.

2. Schedule 1 A single day to be fixed by Proclamation.

However, if any of the provision(s) do not commence within the period of 6 months beginning on the day this Act receives the Royal Assent, they commence on the day after the end of that period.

3. Schedule 2,
items 1 and 2
The 28th day after this Act receives the Royal Assent.

4. Schedule 2,
items 3 to 29
The day this Act receives the Royal Assent.

5. Schedule 2,
item 30
The 28th day after this Act receives the Royal Assent.

6. Schedule 2,
Part 2
The day this Act receives the Royal Assent.

Attachment
Supplementary explanatory memorandum detailing the amendments as passed.
» Download: SUPPLEMENTARY EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM Amendments moved on behalf of Government.pdf (26 Kb, 787 downloads so far)

The submission are located at the Senate web site.

Members
Senator Patricia Crossin, Chair, ALP, NT
Senator Gary Humphries, Deputy Chair, LP, ACT
Senator Sue Boyce, LP, QLD
Senator Mark Furner, ALP, QLD
Senator Louise Pratt, ALP, WA
Senator Penny Wright, AG, SA
Substitute Member
Senator Rachel Siewert, AG, WA replaced Senator Penny Wright, AG, SA for the
committee's inquiry into the Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence
and Other Measures) Bill 2011 [Provisions]
Participating Members
Senator Helen Kroger, LP, VIC
Senator John Williams, NATS, NSW

On FRIDAY, 8 JULY 2011 in Canberra a special Senate committee heard from the following:

ANDERSON, Mr Peter Laurence, Victorian Regional Coordinator and Project Manager, Dads in Distress Support Services
BRIGGS, Professor Freda, Adviser, Justice for Children
CARTER, Mr James, Policy Adviser, Lone Fathers Association
CHISHOLM, Professor Richard, Private capacity
COTTERELL-JONES, Ms Robyn, Executive Director, Victims of Crime Assistance League Inc. New South Wales
CROUCHER, Professor Rosalind Frances, President, Australian Law Reform Commission
DAVIES, Mrs Nicola Louise, Member, Family Law Council
DAVIES, Ms Kerry, Project Worker, Council of Single Mothers and their Children Inc.
FAULKS, Justice John, Deputy Chief Justice, Family Court of Australia
Law Branch, Attorney-General's Department
KASPIEW, Dr Rae, Senior Research Fellow, Australian Institute of Family Studies
LORENZ, Ms Lydia Burdett, Member, Justice for Children
MASON, Mr Dean, National Chairman, Dads in Distress Support Services
McINNES, Dr Elspeth Margaret, Child Development and Abuse Expert, Justice for Children
NGOR, Ms Adut Zita, National Law Reform Coordinator, Women's Legal Services Australia
NORRIS, Ms Nike, Independent Advocate for Child Protection, Justice for Children
PAGE, Ms Samantha, Executive Director, Family Relationship Services Australia
PEEL, Ms Sara Catherine, Legal Officer, Australian Law Reform Commission
PIRANI, Mrs Toni, Assistant Secretary, Family Law Branch, Attorney-General's Department
PRICE, Mr Clive Gordon, Member, Family Law Council
PRICE, Ms Sue, Director, Men's Rights Agency
SINCLAIR, Mr Geoff, Chair, Family Law Section, Law Council of Australia Ltd
STANBROOK, Ms Jennifer Sue, Member, Justice for Children
STRICKLAND, Justice Steven, Chair, Law Reform Committee, Family Court of Australia
WESTON, Ms Ruth Evelyn, Assistant Director (Research), Australian Institute of Family Studies
WILLIAMS, Mr Barry, National President and Spokesperson, Lone Fathers Association Australia; and Spokesperson, Parents Without Partners Australia Inc.

Attachment
A Senate committee took verbal evidence from a number of contributors
» Download: Official Committee Hansard final hearing transcripts.pdf (526 Kb, 167657 downloads so far)

Attachment
Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2011 SENATE REPORT - AUGUST 2011[Provisions]
» Download: Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2011 [Provisions].pdf (733 Kb, 3048 downloads so far)

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