Pauline Hanson says courts continue to deny parents access to their children for “no apparent reason”, a claim the Attorney-General’s Department has dismissed as simplistic.
The Joint Select Committee on Australia’s Family Law System sat on Monday, to review the government’s bid to reform the family court system.
One Nation senator Pauline Hanson claimed she had heard, without providing specifics, that parents were being denied access to their children “for no apparent reason”.
But Iain Anderson from the Attorney-General’s Department rubbished the claims, saying no-contact orders were only made when a judge was satisfied a child or ex-partner faced significant risk.
Although the rulings could be “extremely traumatic for a parent”, judges were more likely to order contact for both parents than when parties struck their own custody agreement, he said.
Senator Hanson also claimed mothers used false allegations of sexual abuse to deny their ex-partners custody.
She cited comments from retiring family law court judge David Collier, who claimed in 2013 false accusations were on the rise in family law matters.
Mr Anderson said the courts did not accept allegations without scrutiny.
“It’s not as simple as saying that just because someone puts forward an allegation of sexual abuse, that determines how the case is going to proceed,” he said.
“(Justice Collier’s comments) suggest to me that sitting as a judge, he would have been able to weigh up the different evidence that was put to him and consider what orders should be made.
“It’s not necessarily the case that judges just accept an allegation of sexual abuse if it’s made. They’ll give appropriate weight to determining whether it’s correct or not.”
In February, Senator Hanson caused outrage by suggesting Rowan Baxter, who set his wife and children alight in an horrific murder-suicide, may have been “driven to it” and that “these things happen”.
Labor and the Greens demanded she be sacked as deputy chair of the Family Law Inquiry.
The government is pushing to merge the Federal Circuit Court and Family Court of Australia into a single entity, arguing the bill would expedite cases and make the system easier to navigate by creating a single entry point.
The proposal is fiercely opposed by the Law Council of Australia, the nation’s peak legal body, which told parliament last month the Federal Circuit Court was already groaning under the weight of a backlog of cases.
But Mr Anderson said all legal bodies agreed family law matters needed to be dealt with by a single entity.
“They’re all on the record of saying it would be much better to have a single court doing family law in federal sphere,” he said.
“While they might disagree with the model that’s been put forward by the government, they certainly don’t disagree that moving to a single, harmonised process would … enable matters to be dealt with more quickly and more cheaply.”
Last week a senate committee recommended the government’s proposal proceed, despite opposition from Labor and the Greens.