• Trevor Cooper

Family Law Joint Parliamentary Inquiry announced - Will witnesses be silenced?

The last week since the announcement and has been interesting:

Most groups have been asking for a Royal Commission but if the aim is to make better policy then the joint parliamentary inquiry may be very suitable. I do not have expertise in this area but can make reference to the article in The Mandarin written by two experts in this area. On the basis of this article the decision to run the inquiry may have better impact on policy than a Royal Commission and is therefore something we should embrace (especially now that it has been established).

I wrote the book “The Pinball Machine The Family Separation Industry and Parental Alienation” to draw attention to what was going on, the vested interests derailing real solutions that would make the separation industry truly child focussed and to show the need for an inquiry. I will now seek to have the book considered as authoritative evidence and shore up support and help drive change.

One of the problems with this type of inquiry is the silencing of witnesses which has been used to great effect largely due to S121 of the Family Law Act (FLA) which is why my name is Trevor Cooper). We saw in the recent:

  1. Australian Law Reform Commission where only aggregated data was presented masking the human toll.

  2. The Parliamentary hearings in 2017 that looked at A better family law system to support and protect those affected by family violence again only provided sanitised information. Those 2017 hearings were driven by special interest groups and narrowly focussed on domestic violence but again failed to tackle the drivers of systems abuse although highlighted it.

The silencing of the Judiciary input is also a scandal and they claim it is due to the separation of powers under the constitution.

  1. The Parliamentary hearing of 2017 was prevented from hearing from the judiciary who were silenced by an opinion that we could not question the judiciary. The judiciary can provide great insight as outlined by a meeting with a former Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia in “Chapter 23 The pinball players compounding conflict” that outlined the three main reasons court cases go off track and essential information if to address the causes. The film DAD by Karen Hodgkins where she interviewed Justice Collier is essential evidence that should have been made available.

The human tragedy must be exposed and should not be concealed by hiding behind S121 and excluding the judiciary from providing their insight (claiming the conflict of the separation of powers).

The recent inquiries have also been narrowly focussed.

  • The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) was nothing short of disgraceful in my opinion. The 19_june_2019_tuys_explanatory_note_002.pdf that provides the aggregated summary data of the 732 submissions outlined the general areas of those submissions but there seemed to be little correlation with the recommendations. Of more concern is that there was scant mention of the impact on real people (e.g. only mentioned costs leaving destitute) and believe there were submission on where the family court led to suicides that were not mentioned! The second largest complaints were against lawyers and yet they only suggested registration and annual update courses. NO RECOMENDATIONS on how to ensure lawyers maintain a customer focus and reign in rogue lawyers! I saw NOTHING that would speed up process, holding people to account or reducing cost. In fact, the reverse becomes obvious as with more to argue over, there would be longer duration of litigation, it would be more expensive and more profitable for lawyers. I repeat that I believe the ALRC process was a disgrace!

  • The parliamentary inquiry of 2017 was focussed on those impacted by domestic violence and therefore narrow in its context. It did highlight some issues such as the impact on violence and was damning in its review of the family law report writers (and I discuss this in my book).

To ensure the complete reform of the system, especially in terms of how it is implemented this inquiry is essential. Using the phrase from Abraham Lincoln’s in his Gettysburg address it should be “of the people, by the people, for the people” and representative of the people and not vested self-interest groups to suit themselves in their attempt to take a bigger portion of the ever-growing, government funding pie. The special interest groups may be lawyers, social workers, family report writers that all profit from the system being lengthy, chaotic and ultimately destructive and deadly. The inquiry should also not be hijacked by ideology such as women’s groups that openly proclaim women are innocent due to patriarchy which seems to be embedded into those groups’ DNA through the discredited “Duluth model” or the men’s lobby (although I must confess that I do not know any that say the same things such as the typical tactics used in parental alienation are not happening to women).

We need to consider if the inquiry will therefore:

  1. Will the judiciary speak up freely and give their opinion and will they be independent or will we see only one submission by the Chief Justice (and the judiciary told to fall in line and be silenced)? In my book there are several references to the judiciary, the statements they made and the problems that they perceive. Leaving them out as was the case in 2017 hearings would be a tragedy and a missed opportunity.

  2. Will witnesses be compelled to answer questions and face punitive actions if they do not or mislead the inquiry? Misleading the parliament has been a problem in the past as outlined in my book.

  3. Will how the Family Separation Industry is actually used to abuse the children through Parental Alienation be properly investigated? I believe it will however Parental Alienation was not specifically addressed in the terms of reference.

  4. Will this expose to the public the real reasons for reform or keep it hidden behind confidential firewalls such as occurred with the ALRC and the Parliamentary Hearings?

These are some of the questions that will need to be addressed in the coming weeks that will help give confidence in the inquiry outcomes.

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