If This Were a Race, Australia Would be Winning

 From The Australian :

  

Broad support for family law bill that puts children’s needs first

  

February 15, 2011 

By Patricia Karvelas

 FAMILY law changes that redefine domestic violence, place greater weight on child safety and arguably weaken the Howard government’s shared parenting laws will go ahead after three-quarters of stakeholders endorsed the Gillard government’s draft changes.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland told The Australian there had been a strong response in favour of the amendments, with more than 400 submissions received during the formal public consultation process on the draft Family Law Amendment (Family Violence) Bill, which closed last month. The changes, which are directed at cases involving abusive parents, make children the top priority in custody disputes. Whenever a court considers that this goal is in conflict with the right of a child to have a relationship with both parents, it will be required to give greater weight to child safety.

The change is contained in draft legislation released late last year for discussion by Mr McClelland. But Labor faces a tough fight with the Coalition, which is set on arguing that the changes will wind back shared parenting arrangements using the safety of children as an excuse.

Labor will need the support of the three rural independents and the Greens to pass the laws, but fathers’ groups will vigorously lobby the balance-of-power MPs to oppose them. The proposed changes come after Labor MPs, particularly women, raised concerns the Howard government laws had gone too far and were hurting vulnerable children. The Howard government introduced changes in 2006 that placed greater emphasis on shared parenting when couples divorced.

Seventy-three per cent of respondents expressed support for the measures and a further 10 per cent made no specific comment on the bill but offered information about personal experiences.

“The public interest generated by the family violence bill demonstrates that family violence is a significant concern within the Australian community,” Mr McClelland said.

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