Pauline Hanson is back in the Senate after 18 years, riding the wave of anti-Muslim hatred spawned by various confected Wars on Terror™.
But liberal commentators are warning we should take her more seriously this time. She and her 10% are “not just racists” they say. And they're right.
Since the election, Hanson has made it clear that she has two major priorities this time around: protecting Christian fish'n'chips from Middle Eastern halal fast food, and tender-hearted men from the feminist Family Court.
Hanson mainly gets media for her opposition to Halal certification — a rich source of hilarity. But in a largely overlooked interview with Australian Regional Media NewsDesk (ARM) in June, she said the main issue that came across her desk when she was in parliament was not swamping by Asians or Muslims, but men's rights.
One Nation's policy of abolishing the Family Court and returning family law jurisdiction to local magistrates and police is lifted straight from the Family Law Reform Coalition (FLRC) policy paper Children in Crisis, penned by Wayne Butler and Ed Dabrowski of the Shared Parenting Council of Australia (SPCA). Hanson has also adopted their media speaking points: women are making up frivolous complaints of domestic violence and 27 men a week are committing suicide because they are the real victims.
"We need a full overview of the child support system and the family law courts to find the answers [because] you know some [women] are going out there and claiming domestic violence because they're told 'I don't like the colour of your dress'," she told ARM.
"[Women] are making frivolous complaints and it's time that our court system [is looked at] — especially for men who are the subject of domestic violence themselves.
"Men have nowhere to go — [domestic violence against males] is very widely spread.
"I want to sit down with these [male-focused] organisations, these groups, and give them a voice, because they feel like they're not being heard."
The SPCA is a loose coalition of men's rights groups including Fathers 4 Justice, the Family Law Action Group, Dads in Distress, Lone Fathers Association and the Fatherhood Foundation.
Their key demands are for a legal presumption of “shared care” of children, punitive costs to be awarded against women who make “false allegations” of domestic violence and changes to child support laws to reduce fathers' financial obligations to their children.
In 2006 they won a major victory when the then John Howard government, in a direct response to their successful lobbying campaign, enacted laws mandating “50-50 shared care”. The result was a significant increase in violence — including bashings and murders — against women trying to protect their children, and themselves, from violent men seeking to enforce their “rights”.
Women's organisations mobilised, pointing out that only about 5% of separations go to the Family Court — largely because they involve men who have threatened or committed violence against their partner or children. About 95% of couples separate without any court involvement. It is therefore unsurprising that so many family court matters involve domestic violence allegations — that is precisely why the women go to court.
The Julia Gillard government softened the “50/50 custody” presumption in 2011 — replacing it with a presumption of “shared responsibility and care”. The result is that “the best interests of the child” — and certainly of the woman — can still be overridden by a legal assumption that children — even in families bighted by violent men — should “maintain a relationship with both parents”.
In February, the Saturday Paper published a detailed report of efforts by then-Victorian Senator John Madigan, together with Queensland MP George Christensen, to undo the Gillard reforms and reinstate “fathers' rights”.
Madigan resigned from the virulently anti-abortion Democratic Labour Party in 2014 and ran as an independent this election. At time of writing, he is likely to lose his Senate seat, although preference harvesting can produce unexpected results. Christensen has won back his Queensland seat of Dawson on a reduced margin. Together they worked hard to build support for the FLRC's proposals on family law “reform” — securing significant support from the cross benches — but were overtaken by the election.
But the men's rights movement will have a new champion in the Parliament — Pauline Hanson's One Nation. Hanson and her advisers know that this issue is a winner with their constituency and pulls a solid minority vote. Racism may have got them on the news, but sexism will get them over the line.