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Tuesday, 18 June 1996
Page: 2153

Mr LINDSAY(10.18 p.m.) —Many grave and sad issues are raised in this House. In the short time available to me I would like to raise one tonight: the increasing break-up of families in this country and the inequities that occur when that happens.

Last weekend I was placed in a very difficult position. I felt totally inadequate and did not quite know what to do. This is the story: a father, and it could equally have been a mother, had an access order to see his children. He went around to where they were and was denied access. He had a Family Court order and was permitted to see his children between the hours of one o'clock and five o'clock on that Saturday afternoon. He was denied access.

What did he do about it? He was so upset that he went to see the Queensland police. Their response was, `I'm sorry, we have no jurisdiction in the matter.' He said, `I have this Family Court order. I am entitled to have access to my children.' They said, `Sorry.'

On the Monday he went to see the Australian Federal Police to see what they might be able to do about it. Same story: `We can't do anything about it unless it is written on the court order.' I have now found out that the only recourse this father has is to go back to the Family Court. And what happens there the majority of times? It may take up to six months to get a hearing in the Family Court. Once he gets there, what happens? Whoever is in the Family Court probably rules that the other party is in contempt, but there is virtually no penalty. Why put on a penalty? The other party probably cannot afford a penalty anyway. You go around in a circle and six months later the fellow still has not had access to his children.

That is wrong. That is something that the people, the courts and the law-makers of this nation should be addressing some attention to. Parents absolutely should have right of access to their children. I felt very inadequate last weekend when I saw that occur. I certainly will be doing whatever I can in this place, and I hope that I have the support of all my colleagues here tonight and those who are watching in their offices. We may well be able to change that situation so that parents can have access to their children.