Two rants in two days – this one actually matters

I’m a big fan of John Clarke and Brian Dawe. You might recall that they did a fantastic mockumentary called “The Games” in 1999/2000 regarding the Sydney Olympics.

One of my favourite lines from The Games from Series 1 Episode 11 called “Conflict of Interest”

John says:

That’s it. I give up. That is it. 8:23 Monday morning. John officially gave up. Retired to the pavilion looking tense but dignified.

That was pretty much my feeling when my wife Louise alerted me to an article on the ABC’s The Drum web site. For those of you who don’t know it, it’s full of articles that are opinion pieces.

So here goes everyone, it’s time for another traditional McCormack-style rant!

The article in question is by Terry Barnes. You can view it here. It’s called We’re ignoring the flow-on effects in the rush to say “I do” on same-sex marriage.

Mr Barnes is apparently a public policy advisor and has been an advisor to health ministers including Tony Abbott when he was but a humble minister of the Crown. God help us!

The part that really got my blood pressure moving (and yes I did go and check it on my trusty Omron blood pressure monitor) was one of the most breathtaking things I have seen in the last 24 hours! This was it:

“Take, for example, marital breakdown and the federal Family Law Act. Despite rose-coloured glasses now, breakdowns are inevitable. What, if any, changes will there be to the divorce rate, and thus to the Family Court’s workload? How should courts and judges parcel up assets when same-sex marriages are dissolved? For heterosexual couples the mother more often becomes the custodial parent after divorce, how will courts approach same-sex couples’ custody and child support disputes? While some same-sex de facto relationships go to court now, a lot of this is new ground and raises challenging policy questions. Consequential legislative changes may well be needed.”

Cheese and Whiskers! Every time I read that paragraph I am a millimetre of mercury away from seeing my cardiologist.

Mr Barnes, thank you very much for having hyperlinked the Family Law Act to your article for us. It’s pretty damn obvious that you haven’t taken the time to actually read any of the provisions of the Act or do any research whatsoever.

If you had, you might have worked a few things out and not sounded like someone who was delivering wood to Noah when he was building the ark.

Let’s get a few things straight. Since 2009, the Rudd Federal Government introduced legislation that amended the Family Law Act so that it could deal with de facto relationships and property disputes. This included same-sex couples. It made it much easier to use the existing Family Law legislation and change some definitions so that the Family Courts could deal with matters.

Guess what Mr Barnes, the Courts in this country have been dealing with the same-sex property matters for years! Prior to 2009, the State Supreme and District Courts had jurisdiction to do this.

In answer to your question about changes to the Family Court’s workload, let’s get a few things straight. There are two courts that exercise jurisdiction under the Family Law Act, The Federal Circuit Court of Australia (FCC) and the Family Court of Australia (FCOA). The FCC is a high volume court and deals with the bulk of work. The FOCA these days tends to deal with very complex matters and appeals from the FCC.

Both the FCC and the FCOA have huge workloads. Guess what, nothing will change if same-sex marriage comes in. The people that you have advised in the past will still ignore the need for more judicial appointments and proper funding of Court resources. Despite this, people who are currently in same-sex de facto relationships might get married and might get divorced. So what? If they had stayed as a same-sex de facto relationship they might have split up as well. If that was the case, they are still going to use the same legislation and the same Courts to help resolve their disputes if they can’t sort things out between themselves.

The statement made that in “custody disputes” the mother generally becomes the “custodial parent” is breathtaking. For a start, we haven’t used terms such as custody since the 1995 Family Law Reform Act changed the nomenclature. There is actually a legislative path way and a shed load of decided authorities that assist judges in deciding what is in the best interest of children about which parent they should live with. Do I take it Mr Barnes that you think that this will be some brave new area of law for judges? For the sake of clarity and avoidance of doubt on the issue (one of my favourite phrases), judges in this country have been dealing with the status of and arrangements for children since the Family Law Act was passed in 1975. That’s 40 years ago this year Mr Barnes!

There isn’t any new ground Mr Barnes, just ill informed people who write opinion pieces. I shudder to think what sort of policy advice you’re giving to our politicians. Actually, no – I have a fair idea.

Shame on you Mr Barnes! Shame on you!

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