Despite concerns from women’s advocacy groups, Scott Morrison has given the green light to a sham parliamentary inquiry into the family law system.
The CEO of Women’s Safety NSW said that there were questions about the legitimacy of the inquiry and that not a single agency concerned with the welfare of women and children experiencing family violence and abuse had come out to support it.
Gendered violence can be a life and death matter for many women. In fact, according to Counting Dead Women Australia, by October this year 45 women had been killed this way. September was one of the deadliest months, with more than two women killed each week.
According to the United Nations, each day 137 women are murdered around the world by a partner or family member.
There is a desperate need to increase funding to domestic and family violence support services, and to wage a campaign to undermine things like poverty and sexism that underpin violence. But that’s not what this new inquiry is intended to do.
The family courts and family violence support services remain underfunded and struggle to keep up with demand. There have already been two other similar inquiries in the last two years, but very few of the recommendations have been implemented.
For Scott Morrison and the Liberals, this inquiry has more to do with political horse trading than it does with the real issues at hand. This inquiry was pushed for by One Nation’s Pauline Hanson, and she has been made the deputy chair.
Hanson has long claimed that women regularly lie about abuse to secure custody of children in family courts, and that the system needs to be reformed. She wants a family law system that grants equal custody to fathers, even if they have a history of abuse.
She uses the issue to shore up her base of support, which includes a slew of right-wing men’s rights activists.
From the government’s point of view, they hope to sweeten Hanson up in order to secure her crucial cross bench vote on other issues.
This inquiry will be a huge waste of money and a diversion from the real problems. The outcome will likely include recommendations that expose women and children to abusers by prioritising safeguarding the nuclear family over keeping victims and survivors safe.
Pauline Hanson styles herself as being an “anti-politician” politician, but the policies she advocates are very much in line with the system that breeds exploitation, oppression and violence.
Capitalism relies on the nuclear family as an economic unit. The family is used by the system to raise and care for the next generation of workers.
While the way the family looks has changed slightly over the years, and some aspects like the male head of the house having total control have been undermined, many unfair aspects remain firmly in place. For example, women still do the majority of cooking, cleaning and caring for the young, old and sick.
When it is families that carry out these tasks unpaid, the financial responsibility for providing services is removed from the state. Big business encourages this because it lowers the tax burden on them and helps to boost their profits.
This is why right-wing politicians talk so much about ‘family values’. Not because of any moral concern, but because it’s good for business.
Internationally, and in Australia, violence against women is a leading contributor to the illness, injury and death of women aged 15-45. We don’t need yet another expensive inquiry to tell us what the problems are. The data is there, the research has been done, and many recommendations have already been made.
What we need is immediate action and investment into services such as family and domestic violence support, and more public housing so that those escaping violence have somewhere to go.
We need real equal rights for women and equal pay, and for a family law system that is centred on the rights of children and that prioritises protecting victims of abuse.
The barrier to all this is political. Both of the major parties represent big business and support the profit driven system. It is this system that relegates women to second class status and undervalues our lives.
Side by side with fighting violence against women, we need to fight to get rid of capitalism. We deserve better than a system that sees women as mere housekeepers so that the super-rich can make profits.
By Meredith Jacka