OPINION: by Warwick MarshNews Weekly
Julia Gillard's gift for Father's Day
, September 17, 2011
Last month I received a phone call from a grandmother who was in tears because of what her son was going through in the Family Court.
Her son is a devoted dad who loves his child. When his baby was first born, he used to push him around the town in a stroller so that mum could get some sleep in between feeds. Sadly, the mother packed up and left, taking the boy away when he was only one year old.
Not only was this father broken-hearted, but so was the grandmother. For a period of 18 months he did not see his son because of malicious behaviour on the part of the mother. The whole family was devastated.
Currently, this dad is allowed to see his son every second weekend and half of the school holidays. But what is saddest is that he struggles even to get that time with his boy. This man is on his fourth set of court orders, but even these are regularly flouted by the mother with impunity. The father and his new partner are at their wits’ end because this has been going on for 10 years and they no longer know what to do.
The poor grandmother has been watching the Gillard Government’s impending rollback of shared parenting (under the guise of anti-violence laws) and is wondering if she will ever see her grandson again.
She said to me, “It’s no wonder fathers commit suicide because they love their children, but the courts are against them, legal aid is against them and now the government is against them”.
Sadly I could do little but agree with her.
On August 22, the Labor/Greens-controlled Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee reported on the shared parenting rollback bill. It is now set down to come into law a few weeks after Father’s Day.
Another story I heard recently from a good friend was that of his stepson, father of a beautiful daughter, who was locked up in Goulburn Jail for eight days.
His crime? There wasn’t one! The stepson’s partner lodged a complaint two weeks after a verbal altercation between them (which my friend witnessed). Neither my friend nor his stepson was consulted, nor was a statement requested from either of them; but the police were able to put an innocent father in jail on the word of a drunken woman.
Only after my friend’s stepson had paid $20,000 in legal fees was the matter finally thrown out of court; but to this day this young man struggles to be allowed to see his daughter even though he is a very committed dad.
You might think these stories are pretty bad, but it is about to get a whole lot worse. Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s Labor/Greens Government is about to enact changes to the Family Law Act that will demonise dads in the court system and deprive even more children of their biological birthright to a father and a mother.
This is the first time that changes have been made to the Family Law Act without bipartisan approval; but Julia Gillard is prepared, with only a one-seat majority, in a moment of political folly, to throw caution to the wind to give Australian fathers a 2011 Father’s Day gift they will never forget.
What is even more unusual is that the Gillard Government’s popularity has slumped to only 27 per cent in the latest news poll, the lowest vote for a major party in the history of news polls.
Furthermore the Prime Minister is losing men by the bucket-load, with 59 per cent of men dissatisfied with her, compared to 48 per cent of women dissatisfied. This means that men are 23 per cent more dissatisfied with Gillard than are women. If Ms Gillard wishes to retain government, she must win back the men’s vote, not lose it.
In 2007, the Labor Party made history with its promise to introduce Australia’s first ever men’s health policy. I should know; I was the guy who helped put it on the table.
Men flocked to the Labor Party. Labor won the election, and the men’s vote helped them do it. But here we are in 2011 and the Gillard Government has declared a war on fatherhood and wants to give a diabolical Father’s Day gift to the men of Australia.
Hopefully, sanity will prevail, but only if everyday Australians protest to their local MPs about the Government’s Family Law Amendment Bill 2011. Remember: “All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
Warwick Marsh is the founder of Dads4Kids Fatherhood Foundation with his wife Alison. In 2001 Warwick received a Centenary Medal from the Governor-General for service in musical leadership for young people and the Aboriginal community and his international missions and aid work.