Speech Presented by Dads on the Air

To the Lone Fathers Conference

Commonwealth Parliament House in Canberra 9 August 2007

Have Howard's family law and child support reforms been a success?

As the media outlet which has followed these issues closer than anyone else in the country, Dads On The Air is very sad to report: the answer is a resounding no. Absolutely not.

To understand why an air of decay and deceit has adhered to a dying Howard government, you need look no further than the Howard government's treatment of separated dads and their families.

It is a case study of how this government has dealt with social issues, with the electorate; and yes, with their once staunch supporters.

And why they are now on the nose from coast to coast.

By flirting with the separated father vote and then discarding it, by holding in front of grieving and distressed men who have had their children arbitrarily ripped off them the possibility that they could get to see their kids again, by promising and promoting family law reform and then failing to deliver, John Howard and his government have committed emotional abuse on a massive scale.

Flirting with the separated dad vote - and don't forget this includes aunts, uncles, grandmothers, grandfathers and second wives - was one of the worst things the Howard government has ever done.

Despite all the evidence from both Australian and international sources justifying the desperately overdue need for reform of family law and child support and the introduction of equal and shared parenting as the most sensible solution to the morass Howard failed to act; instead he blinded people with smoke and mirrors.

Instead of listening to the people, to the massive support for joint custody aka shared parenting as the norm post divorce, instead of listening to the massive support in the media for ending the rotten debacle of family law and remedying the massive harm being done to this country's children, the Howard government chose instead to listen to the elite opinion of the so-called experts. He blew an historic opportunity to fix this problem once and for all.

Elite so-called "liberal" opinion in this country, including the mandarins responsible for the Family Court and the Child Support Agency, have long regarded the father as an unnecessary element in the modern family.

The Family Court's maladministration, its arbitrary judgements and overwhelming ideological bias against fathers, had become a major embarrassment to the Howard government. It is regarded with contempt by lawyers in all other jurisdictions. But instead of fixing the outrageous conduct of this lunar left the court, Howard has wasted hundreds of millions of dollars setting up so-called Relationship Centres. They will operate under the same draconian secrecy laws that protect the Family Court from proper journalistic exposure and will perpetuate the same anti-father bias and the same discrimination as the Family Court itself.

No father can expect to be treated fairly in these Relationship Centres. Those tendering for the running of these centres, including Relationships Australia, have all put in submissions opposing shared parenting; and have therefore declared their bias up front.

Predictably these centres have instantly turned into yet another bureaucratic layer that separated parents have to negotiate.

Just the other day a story came to DOTA of a father, recently separated and desperate to see his kids, who couldn't get any sense out of his local centre whatsoever.

Privacy legislation, he was told, forbade them from telling him whether or not his ex-wife had agreed to his request for mediation. Meanwhile, the "status quo", used to such devastating effect by lawyers against fathers, was settling in. As the days turned into weeks and the relationship centre continued to refuse to tell him whether his wife had agreed to mediation or not, he was becoming just another bloke who would barely if ever get to see his kids again and stood little chance of changing the situation.

Next thing in his life, as night follows day, will be the loss of most if not all of his assets; the court can and often enough does make orders for 90% of the couple's assets to go to the wife; and then the loss of most of his income through child support.

If he dares to protest against the operations of the Family Court or the despised Child Support Agency he will likely find himself an unfashionable, socially isolated, figure, that modern embarrassment, the angry separated dad.

If he complains to the media; radio, print, or television, his entreaty to journalists that his abuse at the hands of these institutions makes a good story will be entirely ignored. Letters arriving at news outlets around Australia, into which so many fathers have poured so much distress and outrage, are almost invariably placed straight into the bin. Equally, our father's letters to politicians will be entirely ignored; if he gets some non-committal acknowledgement he can count himself lucky.

If he attempts a legal solution to his problem, he will find himself battling an immensely complex jurisdiction on his own; and if he manages the enormously complex process of an appeal, he will find himself in front of three Family Court judges instead of one; and discover what many have discovered before him; there is no sense at all at any level in family law. If he takes up his option of going to the High Court, the chances of the court deigning to hear his case are almost zero.

Hey presto, he will have become that saddest of phenomenon, a dad who doesn't get to see his kids; a direct result of government policy promoting the fatherless family.

Dads On The Air has always maintained that apart from death the single worst act the state can perpetrate against its citizenry is the removal of children from perfectly good loving parents. And that is exactly what this government has been doing.

This week hundreds of kids will have their relationships with their fathers destroyed by a multi-billion dollar bureaucratic and judicial juggernaut which makes its living off ripping kids away from their dads and creating that modern social artifice - the single mother.

Just like every other week in the 11 long years the Howard government has been in power.

Hundreds of thousands of the nation's children have suffered the dreadful abuse of being denied a proper relationship with their fathers while a gutless Parliament has looked on, too afraid they might lose a few women's votes if they stood up for dads.

The Howard government has badly misread the politics around separated dads and their families.

Instead of listening to the people, they have listened to a few angry single mother lobby groups. What they forget is that most women love the men in their lives, including the separated fathers. For every woman who's supposedly advantaged by the blatant bias of our family law system, other women; grandparents, aunts,and friends, are hurt by the outdated and draconian implementation of the court's sole custody regime.

For every single mother there's a desperate dad who would love to be able to care for his kids. The Howard government has assisted in the perpetration of the myth of the single mother as somehow an heroic figure. In reality the bloody minded and selfish refusal of many solo mothers to let their children have a proper relationship with their dad, often purely for financial reasons, has been re-entrenched by Howard's so called reforms.

Although no proper study has ever been done on the subject, it is often estimated there are about a million votes in the separated dad lobby.

With the polls indicating the government faces annihilation at the coming election, I bet Howard wishes he had a million votes in his pocket. I bet about now he's wishing he hadn't double crossed the dads; their kids, their grandparents and all those people in separated and blended families who's views, experiences and presentations to government he has ignored.

Dads would have died in the ditch for Johnnie Howard in September 2003; when he publicly stated he was drawn to shared parenting as the norm, post-divorce and would be initiating a wide ranging inquiry into child custody.

He brought great hope to hundreds of thousands of desperately sad separated parents who thought that for the first time ever we had a Prime Minister in power who understood their heart ache and was going to do something about the country's most despised, dysfunctional, discredited and destructive institutions, the Family Court and the Child Support Agency.

To illustrate just how far the Howard government has fallen in moral stature and in public standing, it's worth remembering back to the immediate aftermath of that 2003 announcement. There were positive front page headlines around the country and talk back radio ran hot in support, with call after call detailing the devastation being felt by separated parents.

In short, Howard won astonishingly strong support from within the nation's media; widespread and excellent coverage and kudos for his government and praise for having the gumption to take on the entrenched interests of the judiciary and the bureaucracy.

It's a long time now since Howard has seen wall to wall positive front page headlines.

Meanwhile he thrashes around trying to re-ignite that sense of coherence and excitement, desperately trying to find something that will work. What did work, but is working no longer; was the government's flirtation with shared parenting or joint custody of children.

Which makes the government's actions even more puzzling: why did they backtrack; why did they double cross the dads when there was so much community and media support for change??

While many people will tell pollsters they are concerned about global warming or funding for public hospitals and schools, there are very few actual vote-changing issues.

But make no mistake, your children ARE a vote changing issue.

If a politician comes along and tells a grieving, heart broken dad who's had his children arbitrarily ripped from him by an arrogant and uncaring judge who told the father that it is in his kids best interests that he only see them occasionally, if at all, if a politician tells that father he will get his children back for him, that man is going to vote for him; no matter what party he's from. No matter what their policies on other issues are.

If a politician tells a deeply upset and distressed grandmother who can't get to see her beloved grandkids that his government is going to tackle the grotesque unfairness of family law and the bureaucratic bastardry of the Child Support Agency which is destroying her beloved family, that is more than enough to sway that grandmother's vote.

In effect, that's what Howard did. By expressing support for the notion of joint custody aka shared parenting, he won the hearts and minds of separated dads around the country, and staunch support from many of the women in those father's lives, mothers, sisters, work colleagues, and of course lovers; the so-called second wives brigade.

Fast forward to 2007; and the end of the story is very sad indeed.

Not only have the judgements coming out of the Family Court and the Federal Magistrates Service demonstrated that they have no intention of reforming their anti-father bias; the hated Child Support Agency is as bad or worse today as it has ever been.

Even in the past fortnight we've seen yet more abusive announcements from the government that it will hunt down all those "rich" dads and make them pay - and pay - and pay. This is a despised bureaucracy at war with taxpayers and who's bureaucratic insanities have destroyed countless thousands of lives; driving men onto the dole queues and literally to suicide; and if the Howard government had a single shred of integrity on the subject, it would have followed the Blair government's example and shut them down long ago.

No such luck. Instead Howard has been prepared to perpetuate the lie that this agency is somehow acting in the "best interests of children"; which it patently is not. And let's not forget; this is the government that, bundled in with a whole lot of other minor amendments, removed any legislative obligation for them to do so.

Depending on his income level, a separated father in this country with four kids can end up paying 84.5 cents in the dollar in tax, child support and medicare levy. And if these loving parents, unable to cope with these insane imposts, fall behind in their payments, then they are whacked with compounding penalties and interest payments. The irony is the average child of a separated family now gets less money in child support than they did prior to the creation of this bureaucratic insanity. If you think it's fair and reasonable to remove a child from a parent and then impose massive financial imposts on them, talk to any non-custodial mother in this country and see how they feel.

Separated fathers who've been to see the Prime Minister John Howard, report back that he treats them with courtesy, and has expressed astonishment at the high levels of taxation and child support they are paying. But Howard's done nothing to abolish this modern day slavery; instead his government routinely and proudly announces yet more crackdowns on separated fathers; blocking them from leaving the country; hunting them down wherever they may be; the almost Gestapo style tactics of the despised Child Support Agency are not only protected, they've been dramatically expanded. For some ludicrous reason separated dad bashing is seen as a vote winner.

Indeed, we recently had yet another politician briefly responsible for the Agency, Joe Hockey, declaring that he and his government would pursue separated fathers who owed child support to the grave.

As Dads On The Air put up on our web site: News flash Joe, you and your government are already doing it.

There was no more disgusting sight in public life than a well fed Joe Hockey, with his massive income and his intact family; boasting about the latest addition to his growing family while vowing he would pursue dads unfortunate enough to have become divorced, "to the grave".

As many separated dads were natural Labor voters who voted Liberal for the first time purely on the issue of family law reform, perhaps the dads will now chase him to his "political grave".

Dads On The Air estimates that 12 clients of the Child Support Agency will die today, just as they've done every other day for years. This rate is calculated on information provided by the Agency from freedom of information requests which showed that 6.1 per cent of all cases terminate because of the death of a party. If around 75,000 cases terminate this year; this constitutes a figure of around three times what you would expect in a similarly aged group; and is entirely due to the poor treatment dished out to separated dads by the Family Court, the Child Support Agency; and all their supporting bureaucracies; including Centrelink, who treat men and single dads with complete contempt.

That's heading towards 50,000 deaths of CSA clients since John Howard came to power in 1996 and is a public administration scandal. Every father's group in the country; and MP Alby Schultz who spoke at the this conference yesterday, have long maintained that the high death rate amongst separated men is directly linked to their mistreatment at the hand of government bodies. There are numerous desperately sad stories to back up the argument.

But don't just take my word for it.

Ask the CSA for yourself: how many of your clients have died since John Howard came to power????

This situation has deteriorated disgracefully over the last 11 years. The only government member with enough common decency and courage to speak out on the issue has been maverick Liberal MP Alby Schultz.

Howard's failure to take appropriate action to fix the Family Court and the Child Support Agency, directly affects the lives of millions of people. These hated and discredited relics from the 70s and 80s are still destroying people's lives every day. Add to this Howard's failure to remedy the overwhelming bias of Legal Aid, and the hostility to men regularly displayed by Centrelink officers; who operate on the same dishonest principle as the Family Court that whatever the man says is nothing but the mutterings of the patriarchy and whatever the woman says is, as a member of an oppressed class, the truth.

Perhaps the first clear sign that the Family Court was not going to accept direction from Parliament was the family law conference in Perth last year. Chief Justice Diana Bryant sternly lectured the government on political interference and retiring court stalwart Justice Chisholm, often intensely disliked by the fathers unfortunate enough to come before him, maintained that because the court had always acted "in the best interests of children" the new laws were little more than a bit of "light house keeping".

But there hasn't even been any 'light house keeping', as recent judgements on appeal have clearly demonstrated.

Even the government's own favourite academic, family law insider Patrick Parkinson, has admitted that the appeal judgements are all over the place and failing to fulfil the intent and spirit of the legislation; which allegedly was to improve children's relationships with their fathers post-separation.

"We are getting decisions all over the place, going different ways", Professor Parkinson told a WA newspaper recently.

Federal Attorney General Philip Ruddock said the intent of the reforms was to ensure that both parents are allowed equal access to and responsibility for raising their children after separation. If equal child access was not appropriate, the court must consider an arrangement for substantial time with both parents.

That is not what's happening.

DOTA argued as strongly as we could in numerous broadcasts that the state had no right to arbitrarily remove a child from one perfectly decent loving parent or the other; and that the only way to remove the appalling debacle that is child custody in this country was to implement a rebuttable presumption of 50/50 joint custody for separating parents. No child should be denied a relationship with either its mother or father, without very good reason.

But it was all too simple for the politicians; and of course it would have eaten away at the multi-billion dollar industry of removing children from their fathers. And so, because everyone in government knew better, we've got the current mess.

Shared Parenting Council President Ed Dabrowski was right on the money when he asked recently: "Why would you allow a child to lose a parent and suffer the emotional scars? It's not about the best parent, it's about the best parent being both parents. This whole idea that you have to pick a winner is nonsense. I have seen fathers writhing in agony outside the doors of the Family Court. I will challenge any parent that is having their children wrenched away from them to say that they can remain totally sane and totally dispassionate about what is happening to them."

Dads On The Air did a story just last month, on Des Cochoran, a disabled pensioner jailed twice after he didn't have the money to comply with disgraced magistrate Jennifer Rimmer's orders that he pay $200 a week child support for his two children until they turned 18 in a single lump sum payment. Rimmer also ordered that his humble house in rural Victoria be sold from under him.

That this government is apparently happy to see a disabled pensioner jailed in this manner defies belief. That the Attorney General Phillip Ruddock can wear an Amnesty International badge, thus expressing concern for human rights abuses around the world, while sitting atop a system which routinely perpetuates these types of human rights abuses defies belief.

What made Cochoran's story even more moving was that he became permanently disabled in a car accident while he was on the way to see his children on a court ordered access visit. His friend, who was driving at the time, was killed. The mother refused his desperately sad pleas to let the kids come and see him while he lay in hospital. The courts did nothing but make this man's life even worse.

One classic example of a case being touted as a sign that common sense was finally starting to filter into family law and that judges and magistrates were finally starting to see reason was that of a Lismore mother of two young children, a boy aged 8 and a girl aged 6, who was jailed for four months by magistrate Michael Jarrett of the Federal Magistrates Court after she repeatedly flouted orders to let the children see their father.

An event so rare it made judicial history, the mother's case quickly ended up before the full bench of the Family Court. Most people have to wait at least a year to get a full hearing before the full bench of the Family Court.

The woman, who shamelessly declared that she would do it all again, was promptly released by the full bench while the children were wrenched off the father and given back to her.

Court orders have now restricted the father's access to six hours a month. Bet right now that's one sad dad. And bet right now those kids are sad and confused, and may well grow up even more so.

Make no mistake about it; denying kids a relationship with their father is child abuse, pure and simple.

Make no mistake about it; this judgement illustrates what many of us already knew; Family Court orders aren't worth the paper they're written on. And they amply demonstrate what many of us have said from the outset, the government's so-called family law reforms are completely useless. The leopard was never going to change its spots.

If a vengeful, abusive and vindictive mother wants to deny her children a relationship with their father; the courts, the state, even the police, will back her to the hilt.

There have been numerous other cases, including the so-called Exclusive Brethren case. The judge in that case, Justice Benjamin, ordered a suspended 4 month jail sentence on the mother and 2 others, for continuous contravention of court orders by denying a father access visits with two of his children. He described the denial of contact with the father as being "at the higher end of emotional abuse".

Five months later three judges of the Family Court overturned the 4 month suspended sentences, saying they were too harsh. Instead these learned left overs from the Alastair Nicholson era, called for another court date to hear further arguments about what the penalty should be, suggesting a rethink of "some of the mechanics of the orders" was appropriate.

So much for justice and human rights for fathers and their children in this country. This was yet another case, which made a mockery of the new Family Law amendments, and helped to re-enforce the common view that in reality nothing much has changed.

Yet another example highlighting the current system's failure is a recent case presided over by Justice Le Poer Trench in Sydney on the 15th of May 2007.

In it, the Judge criticises the current adversarial system of Family Law, and sums up what everyone who's been there already knows, "This case illustrates to me the very worst of impacts on a family , of the adversarial system" There were a combined 140 pages of affidavit, 428 paragraphs, 201 pages of annexures and 102 exhibits. This exercise in futility allowed the lawyers to plunder $220,000 from the family's wealth in order for the parents to obtain a "Shared Parenting arrangement".

The question has to be asked "Who has a spare $220,000 lying around to hand over to lawyers in order to achieve an outcome which can be so easily reversed on Appeal by the Full Bench?"

Most people have now lost all faith in a system that is not about achieving a fair and just outcome for them and their children, but about how much money can be extracted from separating couples at the most vulnerable time of their lives. That parasitic lawyers, psychologists and social workers making money out of these sad conflicts can so casually parrot the phrase "the best interests of the child" is just sickening.

Where are the compliance provisions??? The only option for those considering the issue of repeated contraventions, is to take it back to the very system that failed them so badly in the first place. This is absolute lunacy.

The fact that the Parliament as a whole has so little insight into this human tragedy playing out in the Australian community is alarming. The Parliament's combined ignorance of the ramifications of their failure to properly legislate for relief of the plight of the nations' fathers and their children, perhaps is a sad reflection of a lack of moral courage and intellect. They are perpetrating a continuing systemic attack on the basic human rights of the nations' children and their fathers.

We as a nation, have a duty to protect the rights of our children. If we continue to get this wrong, if we continue to pretend that our current path of destroying father/child relationships is acceptable, if we continue to shy away from a presumption of a shared parenting outcome, as a starting point, then we are failing in one of our most fundamental duties to future generations. History will see this failure, this continuing abuse of children, as one of the great moral evils of our time.

The Family Court has always been a law unto itself; disdainful of its critics, contemptuous of the general social values of the community and paying little heed of or respect towards parliament. Indeed it is not a court in any normal sense a layman understands; rather it is a Marxist feminist tribunal producing a desired social outcome, the creation of the single mother aka the fatherless household.

Anyone with half a brain should have been able to see that the court was never going to change its ways, that introducing some ridiculously vague notion called shared responsibility while leaving the judge's discretion as paramount would do nothing to alter this secretive and unaccountable institutions conduct or its clear belief that fathers have little or no value in a child's life.

The Family "Court" is not a court in any normal sense of the word; and is regarded with complete contempt by lawyers practising in other jurisdictions.

It is a Marxist feminist tribunal delivering a social outcome regardless of the individual circumstances; and the massive grief these required social outcomes; the creation of the single parent family; creates in non-custodial parents, grandparents and children, is ignored.

The Court, created by the Whitlam government without any public desire for it, has always been an impeccably, impossibly, left-wing. It's founding Chief Justice Elizabeth Evatt wrote and spoke about her concerns that lesbian mothers could be disadvantaged in the court; but never expressed a single solitary word of concern for fathers. Her successor, the wildly left-wing failed Labor candidate Alastair Nicholson, perhaps the most despised judges in Australian history; was always ready to attack men and men's groups and champion the rights of women.

With a budget well in excess of $100 million a year; he created the court in his own image and was notorious for his luxurious life-style travelling to conferences around the world and his constant self-promotion as a great humanitarian. As for the fathers who were suffering and even dying back in Australia, he uttered no words of concern or support.

It is now perfectly clear that the court has no intention of reforming its style of custody orders, is impervious to outside criticism and is an unfit organisation to be making decisions over the future of our children.

So will the government be revisiting the legislation?

Unfortunately, it's all too late.

The government is likely to be thrashed in the polls, and a Rudd Labour government is highly unlikely to ever confront its ideological anti-nuclear family cronies in the bureaucracy and the judiciary. An unholy alliance of elite opinion; of bureaucrats, lawyers, politicians and so-called "experts", with the complicity of the Liberal National Party coalition and full co-operation of the Labor Party, took the family law reform process hostage. Much of this was done under the guise of that great motherhood issue, domestic violence. Instead of listening to the people, the schedulers of the public inquiry jammed it full of taxpayer funded advocates; all of whom were keen to paint men as violent patriarchal brutes and women as their hapless, defenceless victims in urgent need of protection by the state.

The government, thinking it was on to a motherhood issue which would make it look good as a protector of women, ignored all the warnings that writing domestic violence into family law was inappropriate and would escalate the volume of false allegations - anecdotally reported to have jumped by some 50%. Violence is a crime; it's a matter for the police. It's not a matter for ideologues in a secretive and unaccountable tribunal like the Family Court to use as an excuse for the perpetration of anti-father policies.

Howard missed a once in a generation opportunity to fix this poisonous system and blew it. Millions of parents, and millions of children, now and into the future, will suffer as a consequence.

The Howard government has poured something like 1.5 billion dollars into funding the Family Court's war on dads during the past 11 years and has always been embarrassed by the initial support they received from the men's groups.

Rather than doing the right thing, they look around at the small, atomised and uninfluentual father's groups and decided they were better off opting for the other side.

The Howard government was embarrassed by the initial support they got from men's groups and has been busily peddling away ever since. Peter Costello proudly announced that he wanted to make this country the best country in the world for women. Not for men, not for children, not for the community as a whole, but for women.

So tell me Pete, what's your policy for men? Tax us to death and then hand over all the money to women's organizations?

When this weak, watered down "shared responsibility" legislation was passed through parliament, literally, let's not forget, in the early hours of the morning with minimal debate, Dads on the Air declared that "the liars, the lawyers, the bureaucrats and the social engineers have won the day".

Everything that has happened since confirms that view.

The Howard government's role throughout the family law inquiry was pernicious and duplicitous.

They only had to follow the advice of their own government's chief legal adviser, The Australian Law Reform Commission.

The Commission, in 1999, delivered its massive report 'Managing Justice - a compilation of inquiries and reports into the Federal justice system' which included the most extensive study of the Family Court of Australia ever conducted, including interviewing more than 3,000 clients.

The Commission found overwhelming disquiet both from within the legal profession and within the community over the operations of family law in this country. It recommended an external review - that is a Royal Commission or something similar.

At the cost of many millions of dollars the Howard government deliberately and knowingly diverted attention away from such an idea to avoid the consequences of a proper examination into a system rotten to the core; choosing to protect the legal profession above the nation's children.

The Managing Justice inquiry in the late 1990s found ample evidence of the maladministration of "justice", including arbitrary decision making, unnecessarily complex procedures and extensive delays, which should have been of enormous concern to any responsible government.

Mysteriously, through its preening faux public inquiries conducted by family law insiders, or in the case of the house of representatives inquiry into child custody by politicians, the government has oddly enough managed to find no such widespread disquiet; much less to expose the conduct which most laymen would regard as dishonest; that is the preferencing of one gender over the other, the misuse of psychiatric evidence; and even abuse of litigants from the bench.

It is not just the disastrous social consequences arising from the interaction of our family law, child support, welfare and child protection systems which has concerned Dads On The Air over the years. It is the maladministration and the misconduct rife in the jurisdiction which should concern this government. No one can pass through the Family Court and retain any respect for this nation's legal processes. Fathers often report being abused or ridiculed from the bench; that the court's psycho-pathology defies belief. We, too, would never have believed some of the stories we've heard about the conduct of this jurisdiction if we hadn't witnessed it for ourselves.

Here's just one small example, witnessed by us, of the bastardy being perpetrated against this nation's citizenry. The father in this case had been denied all contact with his son, and was accused in one judgement of having a so-called "controlling intelligence".

The judge in this case was perfectly well aware there was a media representative in the court, sitting up the back of his court room with a reporter's pad. That didn't stop him.

"What did you mean," the judge demanded of the father, "when you said in your affidavit you were sorry not to be there after your 13 year old son attempted suicide?"

"I merely meant," the father said, "that after such a distressing time, I would have liked to be able to speak to him."

"You wanted to be there to watch, didn't you, didn't you?" the judge thundered.

"I beg your pardon," the father protested.

"You wanted to be there to watch, didn't you, didn't you?" the judge thundered again.

It is for these sorts of reasons that the conduct of the court so desperately needs to be exposed.

Apologists for the despicable state of family law in this country regularly claim that only 5% of cases go to trial; and that the jurisdiction's poor reputation is due to that small percentage of litigants who cannot reach agreement as a result of their own immaturity.

This claim somehow suggests that most separated parents don't have court orders for their children; where in fact almost all separated parents have orders for their children. But these orders are obtained from the first appearances at the court, based on no evidence whatsoever but the often trumped up and emotional allegations against each other by the separating parents.

These orders are almost invariably either the standard daddy pack - every second weekend and half the holidays if you're lucky. If the mother is angry, greedy and immature enough not to want the father to see the kids, she'll most likely get the exact orders she seeks. That's what the court calls the best interests of children.

Heart broken fathers who can't accept the daddy pack and the financial emasculation that accompanies it; or can't bear being denied any contact at all with their kids, mount expensive, heroic and almost always futile battles through the court to get to see their beloved sons and daughters.

The Howard government's perfidy, its failure to confront this issue, will ultimately cost the country far more than a few million dollars.

In DOTA's submission we warned to no avail that scandals would continue to emerge about the Family Court, bringing discredit to the government of the day and to the legal profession.

The repeated and often arbitrary removal of children from their fathers on the basis of trumped up or patently false allegations made to achieve advantage in an adversarial system traditionally resulted in about 25% of children entering the Family Court never or rarely ever seeing their fathers again.

To this day about 50% of those going through the court system only see there fathers once or twice a year. This is enormously and demonstrably damaging to the already distressed and disturbed children of separated parents, with predictable social outcomes.

Despite repeated inquiries and public disquiet the Family Court has failed to reform its practice. The core of the corruption within the court lies in the systemic misuse of expert evidence in order to gain the socially engineered outcome of the fatherless family.

The family reports so "believed" and so beloved by judges are notoriously suspect and scandalously biased. It is here that the alchemy of truth characteristic of the court takes place, where the mother's wishes are judiciously turned into "the child's best interests".

The psychiatrists and psychologists who peddle this corrupt trade, ignore the best interests of the children they supposedly serve but remain protected by incompetent Health Care Complaint Commissions around the country.

The Howard Government's alleged reforms of family law and child support have been little more than an elaborate fraud perpetrated on a particularly vulnerable section of the community. The reforms were not genuine but created the illusion of change while reinforcing the myriad horrors of the status quo.

The Howard government was prepared to flirt with the separated dad vote and create the illusion they were listening. Hundreds and hundreds of voluntary unpaid hours went into the submissions people prepared for the various inquiries. The government didn't take heed of any of them. Instead they paid heed to the so-called experts, to the welter of tax payer funded women's organisations and the elite "liberal" opinion which discounts fathers as unnecessary and demeans all men as abusers; and now they will pay the price at the ballot box.

Nothing is more important to a parent than their children; and the Howard governments conduct was a cruel, cynical and political.

If the polls are right, we are about to be blessed with Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister. While he talks cosily of being with his family on the porch in "Brissie" with his wife, his kids, the dog and the cat, the anti-father, anti-nuclear family, so-called "progressive" ideologues in his party are entrenched in key social policy positions. While Howard's duplicitous double crossing of fathers has been shameful to behold, don't think for one minute Rudd will be any better.

The Howard government's perfidy over family law and child support has been enormously sad to watch play out, but separated dads are naive if they expect Rudd will treat them any better. One of the worst things that has happened in Australia, and evident for all to see during this last family law reform charade, has been the pretense that the nuclear family does not matter, that it is an old fashioned construct which imprisons women and stifles children.

We can see the results of these trendy, so-called "progressive" theories in the crowded chaotic scenes in the suburban courts of this nation. But astonishingly few public intellectuals have stepped outside the pack and drawn the dots. Historian John Hirst's excellent monograph Kangaroo Court was one of the few exceptions.

Our likely future Prime Minister Kevin Rudd talks cosily of his family on the veranda in "Brissie", with the dogs, the cats, the children. But the special interests which have swarmed over Labour since the 1970s, since Whitlam's days, do not hold the family dear in anyway. The left wing of his party is firmly entrenched in the social policy areas; and like their forebears will no doubt do untold harm in the name of social justice.

While their traditional working class supporters have been ravaged by the impacts of the Family Court and the Child Support Agency, there has been not one whisper of concern or discontent with the outrageous conduct of these institutions from the Labour Party itself.

Equality is equality. It means treating people equally. You don't get progress and you don't get social justice by advancing the interests of one gender over the other or by ignoring the views of ordinary people. When you do, all you get is backlash from the great unwashed who have been ignored.

That, in the end, is what this country will face as a result of this government's manifest failure to do the right thing by mothers, fathers and children in equal measure.

The Dads On The Air Team
August 2007