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PM fails to protect Australia’s children by ‘misleading’ public on Family Law Reform

July 20, 2017

Bravehearts Founder Hetty Johnston AM has launched a scathing attack on the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, after obtaining constitutional legal advice which contradicts the PMO’s decision to reject a Royal Commission into Australia’s archaic Family Law System.

It follows a decision by the Prime Minister to deny children caught up in the dysfunctional Family Law System a Royal Commission – an inquiry Mrs Johnston said will save thousands of children from sexual assault and physical harm.

The expert advice received by Bravehearts is contrary to written responses from the PMO as to why a Royal Commission is not feasible, and further exposes the government’s explanation as fallacious.

“This attempt by the office of the Prime Minister to derail calls for a Royal Commission into the Family law system is deceptive and alarming,” said Mrs Johnston.

“The Prime Minister has failed to offer a rational reason why he should not immediately deliver the fastest and most effective protection to thousands of Australian children who remain at imminent risk, caught up in Australia’s broken Family Law System.”

In a letter to Bravehearts, the Prime Minister falsely cited ‘constitutional limitations’ as the reason a Royal Commission could not go ahead. This is contrary to independent advice received by Bravehearts from two constitutional law experts.

Professor Gerard Carney from Curtin University Law School, said, “In my view, no Chapter III constitutional limitations which prevent the establishment of a royal commission of inquiry to determine how the family law system, and in particular, the Family Court of Australia, can best protect children from abuse. Such an inquiry, however, would need to be conducted with appropriate regard to maintaining public confidence in the judicial system”.

George Williams AO, Dean UNSW Law, confirmed that a royal commission into the family law system was legally possible. “There is no insurmountable constitutional barrier to this, though the operation of any such commission would need to be sensitive to the independence of the courts, especially in regards to unsolved matters,” he said.

“The Federal Parliament has legislated to establish a framework from holding royal commissions by way of the Royal Commission ACT 1902. It also poses no barrier. I do not see that constitutional issues provide an additional reason. I note that the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse necessarily intersects with court and related matters”.

Mrs Johnston maintains that a Royal Commission is the only legal framework capable of negotiating and overcoming the significant constitutional, legal (Sec 121 & other privacy instruments), International (UNCROC) and Statutory (State-based) hurdles necessary to properly and thoroughly investigate the failings of the current system, both State and Federal and to instigate change.

She is now calling on the Prime Minister to immediately utilise existing infrastructure to enable the current Royal Commission to interrogate the current child safety crisis being inflicted on children and families due to failures in the family law Institutions of Australia.

“It appears Malcolm Turnbull has deliberately chosen to turn his back on the thousands of children and desperate protective parents caught up in this broken system. This is just unacceptable,” she said.

“Findings in the final report of the current Royal Commission later this year may well inform future policy and legislation to improve responses to child sexual assault in many Institutions, but a glaring omission will be the family law system – an institution still sacrosanct from any outside scrutiny, accountability or transparency.

“One day a Royal Commission into the Family Law System will be conducted and our current Prime Minister may be called upon to explain why, when he knew of the horrors being faced by these children and their protective parents, he didn’t do everything in his power to save them.”


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