One Nation Media Release - Family Law Breakthrough - 20 June 2002

Ground breaking changes to family law are being proposed by One Nation Senator Len Harris under the Family Law Amendment (Joint Residency) Bill 2002, tabled in Federal Parliament today.

"The primary intent of the Bill is to negate the requirement that parents should fight for the right to equal parenting," Senator Harris said.

"The Bill recognises that both parents have equally important roles in the nurturing and rearing of children and except in extreme circumstances, children have the right to regular and frequent contact with them," he said.

"The Bill does not condemn single parents, but recognises that wherever possible, joint custody is to be the preferred arrangement. This will ensure that the responsibilities of parenting are shared."

"The Bill seeks to ensure the best interests of the child are protected by compelling both parties to cooperate after separation and divorce. The Bill dispels the antagonistic sting experienced by both parties after a relationship breakdown."

"The Bill will end the arrangement whereby over 90 per cent of current family law outcomes favour sole custody.

In 2001, sole parent families in Australia accounted for 15.4% of families. In 1971, this figure was just 5.7%. It is clear that we need to address the problems surrounding sole parenting" Senator Harris said.

"Sole custody allows one spouse to relocate easily and to hurt the other by taking the children away. As well, sole custody arrangements may provide economic motives for divorce as well as possible false allegations of child abuse.

Joint residency legislation has been successfully implemented in various US states. "In a comparison between 19 of those states, it was found that the divorce rate was significantly reduced where family law policies either through statute or judicial practice - encouraged joint custody."

"The Bill seeks to ensure that men able to participate more actively in family life. Current statistics indicate that as many as three Australian men per day commit suicide as a result of family breakdown. We expect that the measures contained in the Bill will help to lower the male suicide rate."

Senator Harris said the Bill would significantly reduce the poverty cycle experienced by sole parents through no fault of their own. This legislation would make it possible for sole parents to enter the workforce because responsibility for child rearing would be shared.

"The Bill would provide for new arrangements enabling both parents equal access to records and information regarding the child unless a court determined otherwise. This includes medical, dental and school records."

At the moment, there is always one parent who has to prove that they are not incompetent under the status quo principle. The Bill enables family law to be administered more equitably because there is a presumption that both parents are nurturing, loving and competent. There is a safeguard within the Bill, providing scope for one parent to challenge the competency of the other" Senator Harris stated.

Parliament Contact:

Len Harris, Senator for Queensland.

Tel:  61 (02) 6277 3410

Fax: 61 (02) 6277 5705

Email: senator.harris@aph.gov.au

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