(Image: AAP/Sam Mooy, Joel Carrett)

A parliamentary inquiry into the troubled family law court is set to be co-chaired by Liberal MP Kevin Andrews and One Nation Leader Pauline Hanson.

It’s a controversial decision made by Scott Morrison — one that gets only more confusing when you look at the two politicians’ stances on domestic violence and custody battle issues.

Crikey examines the motivations and missions of the two most prominent figures in this new inquiry.

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Pauline Hanson: a voice for enraged fathers

Twice-divorced with four children, Hanson has said she suffered non-physical domestic violence during her second marriage. Given her working mum, survivor status, it’s understandable she would approach the topic of family violence with empathy and understanding. And she does — just mostly for men. 

In 2016, Hanson made the bold decision to go on live TV and claim women were making up domestic violence abuse claims because their partner didn’t like the colour of their dress. The comments, obviously, didn’t go down well — but that didn’t stop Hanson from doubling down on Radio National this morning, claiming women were concocting abuse claims to stop their partners from seeing their children.

Crikey has covered this myth before — false domestic violence abuse claims are not common, despite the fact 53% of Australians believe they are. So far it seems, Hanson’s only evidence is anecdotal. One of her sons, she revealed on radio, was accused of domestic violence in a family law hearing and wasn’t granted custody of his kids. It’s a little confusing she would base her claims on one personal experience over decades of statistics, given she was quick to assure the public “it’s not the Pauline Hanson inquiry, this is the Australian people’s inquiry”.

Hanson’s obsession isn’t a new one. In her 2016 first speech, Hanson said “on average, three men, and occasionally a woman, suicide a day due to family breakdowns”, another claim not based in fact. She also believes custody battles should be sorted out between parents through self-assessment. This is widely regarded as poor practice.

One Nation previously unveiled a domestic violence policy which would not restrict a father’s visitation rights just because a court had awarded an emergency protection order. The policy came on the advice of men’s rights group Australian Brotherhood of Fathers. 

Hanson has also made her stance on same-sex marriage clear: unsurprisingly, she’s against it, pleading the public to “think of the children”. So we guess in this case, it is “not all men” Hanson is protecting — just the straight ones. 

Kevin Andrews: a voice for traditional marriage

Conservative Christian and Liberal MP Kevin Andrews will lead the family law inquiry. His achievements include working as Minister for Defense; serving as an adviser to the Board of Life Decisions International, a pro-chastity and anti-abortion group; and being named “natural family man of the year” by fundamentalist Christian group World Congress of Families in 2014.

In his 1994 maiden speech, Andrews claimed working mothers in dual-income households would rather be at home, with the second wage decreasing living standards. A vocal advocate for traditional marriages, he’s authored a book called Maybe ‘I do’: modern marriage & the pursuit of happiness.

In it, he writes stable families are the “bedrock of successful societies”, adding the greatest threat facing the Western world is the “continuing breakdown of the essential structures of civil society — marriage, family and community”. Unsurprisingly, Andrews abstained from the same-sex marriage vote.

Putting his money where his mouth is, in 2014 Andrews pushed to have relationship vouchers doled out to couples. Each couple would be given $200 to spend on relationship counselling (whether they were married or not). The reason? Andrews sees his marriage like a car, saying, “we usually get it serviced every two to three years”. The move sparked concerns of conflict of interest, given his wife worked as a marriage educator. In 1980, he and his wife co-founded a Catholic counselling service called the Marriage Education Programme

His giveaway attempts haven’t been in vain, though — this year, Morrison pledged $10 million to marriage counselling for domestic violence victims, a move which was slammed by hundreds of experts.

Conservative, religious, and focused on the welfare of men: we await the outcome of the inquiry with keen interest.

Do we need this inquiry? Write to boss@crikey.com.au with your full name and your views.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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