The Nationals -- emboldened by their relative election success compared to the Liberals -- are pushing hard for more leverage in the Coalition under a wounded Malcolm Turnbull, and the secrecy of their dealings, and agreement, with the Liberals is already coming under fire. But one particular issue should be deeply troubling: the possibility that the Nationals will secretly move to make the Family Court system even more hostile to victims of domestic violence than it currently is.
In today's Australian Financial Review, Phil Coorey reports that the Nationals, led by Barnaby Joyce, are considering trying to embrace elements of the One Nation agenda in order to head off the threat posed by Pauline Hanson to their far-right flank in the bush. One of the key differences this time around in relation to Hanson is that, instead of having Nationals leaders prepared to stand up to her as Tim Fischer and John Anderson were prepared to do in the late '90s, the current generation of Nationals and LNP MPs are more likely to endorse her agenda of xenophobia, opposition to foreign investment and Islamophobia.
One issue where there is further scope for the Nationals to co-opt the extremist agenda is family law. As news.com.au's Malcolm Farr recently discussed, much of Pauline Hanson's support is drawn from embittered middle-aged men who want to overturn the Family Court and the existing child support system. These are men deeply angry that their privileged social status as white males has been undermined by social and economic change in recent decades, and more equal treatment for women and children in family law is a particular source of unhappiness. Hanson's party wants to abolish the Family Court and replace it with a body of "mainstream" community members, dump current child support arrangements, change legal aid to require losing parties to pay costs, and make joint custody the "option of choice" for the family law system.